Before I visited Scotland I read some blog post on the internet where this person was talking about a concept called Deep Scottish Love. Basically DSL is the feeling you experience when you visit Scotland and fall completely and madly in love with basically everything. It took less than a week of exploring Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands before I was starting to come down with my own case of DSL.
The minute I got off the train in Edinburgh I was awed by the beauty of the castle and medieval buildings which looked as if they were carved into the side of the rock face. I couldn’t help but stop and marvel for some minutes on my way to the bus stop, the setting sun casting reflections as if mistaking the buildings for a tranquil pool of water.
Old Town, Edinburgh.
The day after my excursion to Brighton I took a train to Bath. Navigating trains in England is such a breeze compared to getting around in Asia. Firstly I can read all the signs, and secondly if I get stuck I can ask literally anyone for help. After all the travel that I’ve done it’s funny to think that this is my first real trip to an English speaking country (unless you count Australia, which I don’t).
I spotted Cho Chang on her way to school
It just so happened that I flew to London on my mum’s 70th birthday. Originally from England, she hasn’t been back since she left in 1966, at 17 years old. Like my brother did at my age, I decided to take the trip down to the town where my mum spent her childhood. I wanted to walk the streets and get a feel for the place, it seemed fitting that if I couldn’t be in New Zealand to celebrate my mum’s 70th, I could at least go and visit the place she grew up.
Cold, wet, miserable. London felt much like a slap in the face on a winter’s morning. Given it’s rich history, dense population, and iconic land marks, London has always held some intrigue for me. When I thought of London I imagined a world from a Dickens novel, or West End theatre shows, or parades for the Queen. I thought of high-end tea houses and old pubs on every corner; the latter of those certainly holds true. Mostly what I found however was a dreary, cold, soulless city; filled with dreary, cold, miserable people. And corner pubs.
A year ago I was restless. I woke up each morning, I took a shower, I fed the cat, I made breakfast, I drove to work, and I sat in a chair all day. Some days I worked out, some days I ate out, and some nights were spent cooking. Life felt mundane, the daily grind of my routine leaving me unfulfilled with a yearning for more. I was bored with my life as I knew it, and I wanted to see the world.
Working the real life.
Having now spent a considerable amount of time in Singapore (almost three weeks total!), I’ve developed quite a soft spot for Singapore as one of my favourite places to eat. As a tourist Singapore is a great city to hang out in. It’s modern, but still boasts a lot of culture with places like Chinatown, Little India and Joo Chiat; it’s clean, but still has old-style eateries (Hawker centres); and it’s hot so girls don’t wear too many clothes (personal preference).
The sheer number of options when you find yourself standing in the middle of a busy Hawker Centre can be a little intimidating, so with all the foods I’ve eaten here it seemed only logical that I put together some sort of basic what’s what and where to give you a head start on your next one day stopover in the garden state. Because I’m a cheapskate, I almost exclusively eat in Hawker Centers. I’m sure Singapore has a bustling restaurant scene, I just know nothing about it.
Gardens by the Bay.
After chaotic India, I was thinking about doing something a bit more calming during my time in Burma. As the birth place of meditation, it seemed that this was an obvious choice of relaxing activities. By chance, I had met a guy in Cambodia who told me about a Buddhist centre he stayed at just outside of Yangon. It was a bit more alternative, and I liked the unlikeliness in which I had met him, so decided to pay the place a visit.
My guesthouse owner wrote for me in Burmese the name of the area I was trying to get to, and I boarded a local bus. On the bus ride I met a software student from the local university. She said her dream was to be a DJ in a club, and she was just getting a degree to make her parents happy. She was very curious as to where I was going, and why I wanted to learn about meditation.
Never struggling to find a monk.
India blew me away, and exceeded my expectations. People I meet often tell me that India is both the best and worst experience of their life. In the media and via word of mouth India is perceived as a dangerous country; somewhere you will be robbed, stabbed or raped. A place where everyone is out to get you. But personally, I felt more unsafe at 7pm on the streets of Manhattan than I did at 1am on the streets of Delhi. In this post I will attempt to provide you with a different perspective. I hope to capture the wonder and delights, the quirks and idiosyncrasies; a small part of the essence that makes India so special, so India.
Monkey Temple, Jaipur.
I spent a week in Delhi, much longer than I intended, while waiting to get a visa for Myanmar. Other than the spice market, and the nice Couchsurfer I met up with to eat the best Thali ever, Delhi was a bit lackluster.
After a some quick talking around the fact that I didn’t have an exit flight from India, I finally cleared customs in Chennai. I stepped out of the shabby airport and into a humid 35 degrees. I had organised to stay with a Couchsurfing host, but I needed a phone to contact him. The airport had no facilities, so I decided to head out. It was 2pm and I had no phone, no wifi, and no idea where I was going. I entered the throng of rickshaw drivers and earnestly proclaimed, “Take me to the internet!”
After some discussion on where the heck I wanted to go, I was dropped a couple of kilometers away in a nearby suburb. The driver pointed to sign that read that read ‘internet’ on the second floor across the street. As I climbed the dark stairwell, and made my way along the drab corridor with the peeling paint, I wondered if I were about the be robbed, or stabbed. Is this one of those situations people tell you to watch out for? I entered the internet shop and the woman pointed to two computers that looked like they would struggle to boot Windows 95, and asked me for my passport. Not convinced that I was going to be able to do anything with my whatsapp messages in this place, I left and devised a new plan: obtain a sim card.