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July 2014

Hello Singapore!



May, 2014


It was fun showing Tammy Singapore.  It makes me realize I show so many other countries and so little of my own adopted home. 

First stop, one of my favorite places in Singapore, the Orchid Garden in the Botanical Garden.  They say you can see over 60,000 orchid plants consisting of 400 different species.  It is a photographer's dream.







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Flower colllage


The Colors of Little India

Singapore is unique in that there are so many ethnic neighborhoods to visit.  It is a melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and British cultures.  Little India dates back to the 1800's and is one of the most culturally authentic districts.



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The Tekka Center has a large food market on the lower level and on the 2nd floor shops sell traditional Indian costumes and clothing.  This is the view from the 2nd floor looking onto the fish section. 



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 Classic - shopping with no shirt... welcome to Asia!



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There are so many wonderful Indian restaurants here, mainly serving southern Indian food.   We took Tammy to one of our favorites and ordered the cone shaped dosa (pancake made from rice batter and black lentils) - a crowd pleaser, especially for kids!



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We visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, a Tang-Styled Chinese Buddhist Temple in the heart of Chinatown.  It houses what the Buddhists regard as the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic composed of 320 kg (over 700 pounds) of gold donated by devotees.




Tammy turning the prayer wheel.  The Buddhist prayer wheel (mani) should be turned clockwise and it circles with you as you recite mantras or prayers.  Many Buddhist will do this several times a day.



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Arab Street


During the 1820s, Arab Street was a bustling trade center with businesses ranging from textiles, to spices.  Today, it still is a Muslim district but everyone from all walks of life gathers here to indulge in Arab Street's rich culture, especially to savor the ethnic cuisine.  It is also fun to shop at the stores selling Arab goods (Qurans, prayer mats, purses, clothes, scarves, and more).   It is also known as a great place to buy fabric.



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Street art



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We took Tammy to visit a bit of local history in Singapore - the Ho Tit Coffee Powder Factory where they still roast their coffee beans using the old method.


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They have been roasting coffee beans here for over 60 years and the machine is over 100 years old!



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It is a little out of the way for us, but whenever we are in this part of town, we always stop to buy coffee.  They have several blends, all very good.  And the price is very reasonable.  Not to mention the owners are so friendly. 



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Tammy loves her desserts - so we made sure she had a few...

Singapore style!






Above is the Singapore ice cream sandwich and yes that is a piece of bread!  Below is mango sago, one of the most popular Chinese cold desserts.  It is shaved ice with a thick, creamy mango puree, sweet mango cubes and chewy Sago (tapioca) beads.




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Ice kachang, which is also shaved ice but it comes with crazy colored syrups, evaporated milk and gula melaka (palm sugar) along with very unusual items, not usually associated with desserts -  beans, rice,




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Cheng tng - a sweet soup made with a variety of fruits.  "Cheng tng" means clear soup, and is extremely popular, either hot or cold.  Ours was served hot.  Just what you need in the hot Singapore heat!  But they say it really does cool you down.



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And our evening out... a perfect clear evening.



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Singapore does have a very pretty skyline.


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It was a full moon - beautiful!







And the symbol of our city - the Merlion.  The fish body represents Singapore's origin as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, which means "sea town" in Javanese. The lion head represents Singapore's original name — Singapura — meaning "lion city" or "kota singa".



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This is the last post of Tammy's Asian Adventure.  We had a wonderful visit!  We hope she comes back for round 2!!



Bangkok with Tammy


Bangkok, Thailand

May 2014


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Bangkok is such a fun city... great food, great shopping, interesting sights and crazy streets.  So for Tammy's second adventure, we took her to Bangkok.



Tuk tuk


A ride in a tuk tuk was a must do as they are such a unique part of Asian culture.  Be sure to negotiate as the drivers do try to get the most out of tourists.



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We also took her on the very local Chao Phraya river ferry.  They are insane... the boat barely slows down and you have to jump on.



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And they are jammed packed with locals.  The attendants just keep squeezing more and more passengers on board.



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This is definitely not a tourist attraction!  If you do want to give it a try, jump on and the attendant will come around to collect your money. Usually around 50 cents per person.



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If you prefer, you can rent a private boat to get you down the river.  We have never hired a private one.



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There are so many beautiful Wats (temples) to visit in Bangkok.  We went to Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha).  The highlight of this temple is the giant reclining Buddha that measures 150 ft (46 meters ) and is covered in gold leaf.





The Buddha is decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay on his eyes and the soles of his feet.  




Wat Pho was the first public university in Thailand, specializing in religion, science, and literature. It is now a working Buddhist monastery and a school for traditional massage and medicine.



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Wat Pho is the largest and oldest wat in Bangkok and is home to more than 1,000 Buddha images, more than any other temple in the country.




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For luck and good health, you walk around and put a coin in each of the 108 bronze bowls surrounding the Buddha.  This is a significant number, referring to the 108 positive actions and symbols that helped lead Buddha to perfection.  



Bankok temple


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Flower Market


Pak Khlong Talat sells flowers, fruits, and vegetables and is open 24 hours every day.  The market has a long history.  During 1782–1809 there was a floating market, from 1868–1910 it was a fish market, and now it has been a flower market for over 60 years. 





Tammy with her private tour guide.






I love to visit here as the colors make for such beautiful photos.



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 The ice truck... a much-needed necessity in this hot part of the world.



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Tammy by a shrine in the flower market.  



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Street life



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Dancers at the Jim Thompson House Museum







Our very favorite - mango sticky rice. 






 and coconut ice cream!



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The "real" version of Pad Thai - which is very different from the way they serve it in the US.



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More of our favorites - Pineapple rice, Thai basil chicken, known as pad kra pao gai, and Thai shrimp salad with peanuts.





Bangkok at night from the top of the Banyan Tree Hotel - one of the best places to view the city.





Goodnight Bangkok!



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Tammy's Bali!


Bali, Indonesia

May 2014



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We finally had a family member visit us in Singapore - D's sister Tammy.  It was the perfect time for her to come, as D and I were both flying home together from the US the last part of April.  It would make the 23-hour flight much easier and more fun if she flew one way with us.  She stayed with us for three weeks.

When we asked her what she wanted to do ... her top two choices were: 1) visit Bali; and, 2) ride an elephant.  So her Asian adventure started here, in beautiful Bali.

Notice the volcano we are flying over in the photo above, on our way to Bali.


The Villa


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We stayed in Ubud in a brand new private villa (Villa Kami).  It was a fun walk to get to the villa as it was in the middle of rice paddies.  They carried our suitcases on motor scooters, as it would have been impossible to pull them along the trail.


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What I liked about this villa is that it had two master suites with stunning bathrooms.  Many times when you rent a villa, one of the rooms is a kid's room - which isn't fun when you are traveling with all adults.



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The bathrooms were amazing - large and luxurious.  Check out that double shower.  The bathtub does not look that big in the photo but it was one of the longest tubs I have been in.  It took over 30 minutes to fill it for a normal bath!



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 The Elephant Ride


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There is an elephant camp just outside of Ubud.  We opted for the early morning package where you got to bathe the elephants and ride them bareback.  



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We started on dry land, scrubbing the elephants with brushes.   And to say that the elephants enjoyed it was an understatement!



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The elephant loved to have her trunk filled with water, which she then put in her mouth.  If we stopped, she would tap on our foot with her trunk for more water.  Adorable!  A full-grown elephant will drink 40 + gallons of water a day.

Look at that face, happy and content.



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Next, we went into the water for part two of her bath.  Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants, but as far as I am concerned - they are still huge!  The Mahouts (elephant keepers/riders) said the elephants love their bath time.



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My turn - whewwwww hooooo...

This was D's and my second time riding an elephant and it was equally as fun.  The first time was in Laos.  How could riding an elephant NOT be fun???



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The mahout went much deeper in the water with D.  If you have the opportunity to ride an elephant, try to select a program where you get to ride directly on the elephant's back, not just in a chair.  It truly is a unique experience.






Then we each had some elephant lovin'!




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Driver in training!  This baby elephant, a male, is only one year old and is in training to carrying people.  They start him off with just a blanket on his back and slowly work him up to carrying heavier items.  They said it takes five years to fully train them.



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We also had a ride through the jungle, but this time it was in a seat.



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An awesome day with the elephants!  I know some people do not support elephant camps such as these, but we felt it was extremely well run and the animals were well taken care of.  Most of these elephants were rescue elephants from Sumatra and wouldn't be alive if not for this camp.



A Walk in the Rice Fields



Bali has many working rice fields.  Tegalalang in Ubud is one of the most striking ones due to its sloped terraces.  You are able to walk along the ridges.


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We hired a taxi driver/guide to take us around for the day.  His name was Kadek.  I mentioned that the owner of our Villa is also name Kadek... this opened the doors to a fascinating lesson on names.  

In Bali, they ONLY use four names.  They are based on birth order and it does not matter if the child is male or female.

The names are:  first born - Wayan, second born - Made, third born - Nyoman and fourth born - Ketut.

What happens when the fifth child is born?  They start all over with Wayan

They do have a few alternative names such as Putu for the first born (upper caste families) and the second could be called Kadek and the third could be Komang.  They also refer to each other with nickname and for women; a  ‘Ni’ is placed before their name.  It is like ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’.   Men use ‘I’, like ‘Mr.’

But still - how confusing is this?  D and I would both be called Made.



 Kintamni Volcano 



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Kintamani Volcano is still active today.  They say it has erupted 24 times since the year 1804.  The dark part you see is lava from a large eruption in 1968.  Next to the volcano is Lake Batur, the biggest lake in Bali.  Locals fish in the lake and farmers use it as an irrigation source.


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A taste of durian


 In Asia the durian is known as "the king of fruits" - it is either loved or hated.  It is often described as smelling like rotting onions, road kill, or sweaty socks!  In Singapore you are not allowed to take it on any public transportation!


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We were driving along with our guide when we saw a durian stand.  Well, really a woman selling them on the roadside.  The driver told us durian was in season so it was the best time to taste it.  We have had food flavored with durian, but this was our first taste of a real durian.




The verdict?



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All of us liked it!  And what a great experience for our first time.... enjoying it with the locals, who came out to watch the westerners taste it.  And if you are wondering about that outfit I have on... I had to wear a sarong in the temples.


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D below with our guide, Kadek - who LOVES durian and ate half of one himself.



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Bali is known as the "island of a thousand temples" and a trip here would not be complete without visiting a few of them. 



Bali temples


Showing respect by covering up and blessing ourselves before entering the temples.

Tammy and guide






Gunung Kawi is an 11th-century temple with shrines carved into the cliff.



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The Balinese make offerings to their Gods three times a day.





Pura Taman Saraswati temple (below) is dedicated to honor the Hindu Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of learning, literature and art. 



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The temples can be extremely colorful with animated sculptures





Sacred Monkey Forest


The monkey forest scared me last time we went and I swore I would not go back... but I did.  We all enjoyed it - although it still scared me.  A monkey jumped on Tammy as it wanted her water bottle.  They are little thieves and will take anything in their sight.



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They are approximately 605 long-tailed macaques in the park (39 adult males, 38 male sub adult, 194 adult females, 243 juvenile and 91 infants).




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The macaques breed year-round.  We saw many females carrying their babies, who are born, covered in black hair. They keep this until they are about 6 months old.   


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There are beautiful ancient sculptures, bridges, and stairways throughout the monkey forest.

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This baby wanted to run but the mother kept him close by holding onto his tail.


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Gorgeous scenery


Bali truly is breathtakingly beautiful.  We were very lucky as every day we had perfect weather.


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Colorful puppets 


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We were eager to have Tammy taste the local food.  We did more upscale dining with her  :  )







On of our favorites became her favorite - fresh watermelon juice!





The locals


A local school bus.  Safety first!







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We spent the last night in a resort at the beach in Nusa Dua.  A perfect ending to a perfect visit to Bali!


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Japan - Tokyo, Nagoya, Nara, and Kyoto


Why I love Japan:


Elegant, Exotic Geishas


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Delicate Cherry & Pear Blossoms



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Wishes & Dreams



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Ceremony & Traditions



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Funky and Fashionable



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Exquisite Architecture






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 A Town of Deers






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Fresh and Tasty Food


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Sake & New Friends!



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Vending Machines



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Cold or Hot



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Beer from a Vending Machine


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All Things Green...

... Tea



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... Ice cream


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Personalized Pillows



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 Fast Speed Trains



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Spectacular Mount Fuji



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We had a fabulous time in Japan.  It is such a clean polite and fascinating country.  I hope to go back soon!