Things to do in Singapore for Nature Lovers

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Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore is a bustling metropolis with high rises? Sure it is but it’s not just that. You’ll be amazed to know the flora and fauna you can find here. Singapore’s vision as a “Garden City” or “City in a Garden’ was established some four decades ago when the then PM Lee Kuan Yew initiated the greening programme. At the moment the whole thing is managed by NParks.

We discovered the many parks in Singapore one at a time and each time we were super surprised to realize that these places exist right in the middle of a busy city. Here is the list of all the parks but below are our picks.
1. Singapore Botanic Gardens – landscaped and spread out, the botanic gardens were recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. They have different sections and with different tree and plant species, a swan lake with of course swans and also ducks, turtles and many different types of birds and fish. This place is great for picnics and you can even order your own picnics baskets. Fruit baskets are a healthy way to picnic and maybe go for the gourmet options to indulge 🙂
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Vibrant Orchids at National Orchid Garden, Singapore

2. National Orchid Garden – within Botanic Gardens, we highly recommend the orchid gardens. The gardens house vibrant Orchids of many different kinds. There are even dedicated ones named after celebrities and public figures from all over the world. We had never seen so many orchids anywhere else before, from pinks, yellows, orange, creams to whites and purples. They were just so beautiful and we wanted to take them all home. Of course you can’t but if you are looking for some flower delivery options here is a complication – best flower delivery in Singapore.
3. MacRitchie Reservoir Park – we really enjoy the calm and peaceful walk by the reservoir but when we want some muscles moving we do the tree top walk. The tree top walk is something we prefer when we need a good exercise and work out an appetite. This hike takes you upto the suspension bride and then endless flights of stairs back down. Along the way you can spot many type of plants, birds and monkeys too! And don’t be surprised if you spot a monitor lizard!
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Suspension bridge at MacRitchie Park

4. Gardens by the bay – again these are just too beautiful and our favourite spot is the supertree grove especially at night. When the Garden Rhapsody plays at night you feel like you are on the sets of the movie Avataar. It feels quite surreal and the OCBC walkway or just simply under the tree grove is where we’ve often seen guys proposing! It’s quite sweet really with the crowd cheering and congratulating the happy couple.
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Surreal Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

5. Labrador Park – we love sea-facing parks! This park is suitable for walking, jogging, cycling, BBQ-ing and picnics. You can even explore the remnants of what used to be a British military battlement which we happened to come across by accident. And when the sun goes down, sit back, relax and enjoy the sunset.
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Battlement remnants at Labrador Park, Singapore

6. East Coast Park – lovely park with sea views. We especially enjoy renting cycles here and riding upto Bedok jetty, catching a few breaths there, cycling back and then unwinding at a sea facing restaurant. The park is also great for families to cycle, skate, picnic or BBQ together. There are several restaurants and even food courts so there is no lacking for F&B options.
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Family friendly East Coast Park, Singapore

We hope this was useful, so folks get going, go green! 😀

All You Need is Krabi!

Hong Island in the distance, Krabi Thailand

Hong Island in the distance, Krabi Thailand

Our trip to Krabi was just what I needed at the time. We visited Krabi in May this year so I’m long overdue in posting about it here.

Well anyway, it was short and sweet and the right balance between relaxing and some activity.

We stayed at Amari Vogue Krabi at Tubkaak beach. While it’s no 5-star it still gives you the luxury of a secluded beach, away from the city center.

Tubkaak also boasts spectacular sunsets and we chose this place for that reason. Except for a brief sunset on one evening, we didn’t get to see the “stunning’ ones due to the weather. I’m always unlucky when it comes to sunsets … arghh :-/

Eat, Relax and a bit of Action sums up Krabi for us 😀 People planning a trip, take note 😀

Day 1 started with a relaxed lunch by the beach, followed by a city visit in the resort’s shuttle. We strolled there picking up some souvenirs in the shops – I like their colorful cloth bags (jholas), then went for a foot massage in of the many street side massage centers. I can vouch for these! They are value for money, really! Pitstop at Ao Nang also included in the city visit. Not much to do in the city although decent food options to choose from.

The unsual sunset Tubkaak

The unsual sunset at Tubkaak

Day 2, we wanted to go for a tour in the local wooden boats but the weather advisory recommended against it, so we settled for the pool and an hour of kayaking. Kayaks were available on rent from the resort itself. Still pretty good as it worked up a great appetite. Then off to the resort’s thai restaurant for some delicious pad thai and red thai curry with rice! The evening was once more at the beach with drinks during happy hours! And we did manage to see the sunset. Not the best but still something.

Nom, Nom

Nom, Nom Thai Food

Day 3 was the best as we did two things I was wanting to do since we got to Krabi. Number 1 – Island Hopping in the traditional long tailed boat. The morning turned out to be bright and sunny and we hailed a boat right from the resort beach. The whole tour lasted about 3 hours. The boatman took us to nearby Hong Island where we could swim and snorkel. The views are amazing especially with the limestone rock formations jutting out here, there, everywhere. And the waters so green and sparkly!

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Long tailed boat, Krabi

Isn't this a kickass capture

Isn’t this a kickass capture

Snorkeling at Hong Island

Snorkeling at Hong Island

Number 2 – Full body massage! We purchased a couples package at Amari itself and let the masseuse do their job. It was just wow! I could hear the knots in my body popping open. So gooood! Sigh!

And we had to go for more thai food at their restaurant 🙂

Anyone visiting Krabi has to do the above. End of story 😀

So that’s it! I would love to go back to Krabi – stay at a beach resort, enjoy the views, the food and throw in a few massages. Thank goodness for places like these. Without them, the Earth wouldn’t be this interesting.

I hope the beach bums found a tip or two in-here. Until next time, soak up the sun peeps!

Oh the beauty <3

Oh the beauty ❤

 

Road Tripping to the Scottish Highlands

Laggan Dam, Scottish Highlands

Laggan Dam, Scottish Highlands

Are you planning a trip to the Scottish Highlands? Don’t think twice because you won’t be disappointed.

Some people take day trips from Edinburgh for the highlands but if you can drive down and spend a few days or even a couple of days there, its going to be so worth it!

We drove down to the highlands from Leeds and the journey itself is wonderful. You pass by the English countryside with rolling fields and a sheep farm every few kilometers and blue open skies (when its not raining, it absolutely stunning). The sheep are so cute and chubby, you can’t help feel getting down and cuddling them. In the distance they are like white polka dots on a green canvas.

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English Countryside

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Sheep Farm, England

As you enter the highlands the landscape changes to peaks, mountains and Lochs. Lochs. lochs, lochs everywhere in the highlands. Along the way we also stopped at Loch Lomond and a another waterfall site called Falls of Falloch. And there are many many viewpoints with breathtaking scenery to feast your eyes upon.

Somewhere in the highlands

Somewhere in the highlands

We stayed close to Fort William at this campsite called Bunroy Park. As March is still winters we opted for the camping pod instead of carrying and pitching our own tent and this proved to be very practical in the cold and wet weather that’s notorious in the region.

Bunroy Park

Bunroy Park

The campsite is quite good with the usual facilities, a flowing stream a stone throw’s away and hills in the backdrop. This actually turned out to be a great way to enjoy the highlands.

We drove around quite a bit and visited/passed by so many Lochs, I don’t even remember the names now. We visited the Glenfinan Viaduct (the bridge in Harry Potter where the Hogwarts Express crosses, see here). You can even time your visit to see a train pass by!

At a Loch in the highlands

At a Loch in the highlands

Laggan Dam is a place worth mentioning. Winters I guess had cast its own hues and shades and transformed the place so beautifully. See below.

Laggan Dam, Scotland

Laggan Dam, Scotland

We also visited the Eilean Donan Castle and it was quite interesting in my opinion. Its located at the intersection of three Lochs and was a strategic location for the clan Mackenzie.

We then went onwards to Isle of Skye and back via taking a ride on the barge along with the car on board.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

And oh, we also did a Whisky distillery tour at Dalwhinnie! Dalwhinnie is such a cute hamlet and we were told its the coldest village in the highlands – as cold as Iceland. We were in fact almost at level with the snow capped mountains there and it had even snowed the previous night.

Dalwhinnie

Dalwhinnie

As we were driving back to Edinburgh, we stopped at this awesome chocolatier which was highly recommended. This is located at Grandtully and goes by the name of Iain Burnett – The Highland Chocolatier. Its in a traditional bungalow and houses a cafe and a shop. We tried their Hot Chocolate and it was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had! The sandwiches were good too!

Iain Burnett

Iain Burnett

Overall, we spent just about 2.5 days in the highlands but it was so amazing! I hope my experience gives you a few good tips on how you want to spend your time there.

More on the UK trip coming soon!

Blue skies

Blue skies and the countryside

Road Trippin continued

Jeep safari Ranthambore

Jeep safari Ranthambore

After Udaipur, we were headed to Sawai Madhopur also in the state of Rajasthan in India. The main motive for going all the way was to be able to do jeep safaris in the Ranthambore National Park, home of the Asian tigers!

After a point from Udaipur, the road quality deteriorates so the going can be quite slow. The roads also get narrower, poorly lit and quite isolated so its advisable to do the entire run in daylight.

Well we did have to cover some distance after the sky lost its color and it wasn’t the best drive we’d had. The drive further becoming treacherous with the invasion of dogs, cows and camels right in the middle of the highway. And a near miss from a head-on collision with a discarded piece of machinery carelessly left on the side of the road.

Packed up for the jeep safari

Packed up for the jeep safari

The place we stayed at was quite nice and after a piping hot dinner on a wintry night, we called it a day. The next day, in the wee hours of the morning, we mustered all our will power to go out in an open jeep exploring wildlife on a winter morning, in the middle of a jungle surrounded by hills. As we started out, we were chilled to the core but as the sun descended the weather became better and turned to a cool sunny that we actually enjoyed.

Jungle stopover at Ranthambore

Jungle stopover at Ranthambore

We went for three safaris in three different forest zones. The zones are allocated based on availability as the authorities do not want to crowd certain areas only. Zones 1-4 are known for the best tiger spotting and its advisable to book these zones 3-4 months in advance. Online bookings are supposedly available which we weren’t aware of.

The safaris turned out to be pretty great. The early morning crisp air, the sunrises and the jungle terrain, plant and wildlife spotting, the interesting and at times amusing conversations with the jeep guides and drivers, stopovers in the middle of the jungle, and the unbelievable ease with which the 4×4 jeeps navigated through almost any ridge and depression of the stark jungle terrain.

Spotted deer at Ranthambore

Spotted deer at Ranthambore

Bird feeding at Ranthambore

Bird feeding at Ranthambore

For three days straight, we sloshed about in the jeep exploring the zones and always on high alert for any tiger trails. At the end of it all though, it was worth it as we did spot the elusiver tiger. Tigress actually. We considered ourselves lucky as there are only about 60 tigers in an area of 392 sq. km. On top of that tigers are known to be one of the most lazy animals. So that doesn’t help either. The hot and dry months (May-Jun) are said to be best for animal spotting in Ranthambore as the animals laze around the man-made water holes to beat the heat. Besides the big cats, there was a decent dash of other wildlife – deer, sambhars, boars, gazelle, neel gai, monkeys, bird species and plant varieties.

Tiger at Ranthambore

Tiger at Ranthambore

The third day, after our safari and a satiating breakfast of aloo poori, we bundled up once more and headed for our last road trip destination – Agra, where friends and family awaited us.

We reached Agra well in time that day, unwound and ate a lot over the next few days and enjoyed one of the most memorable New Year celebrations.

And did I mention the most delicious dhaba lunch we had on our way to Agra? Still makes my mouth water 😛

Soak up the sun, lighten up

Bali has always been good to us! Not satiated with Ubud on the last trip, we decided to go back to the incredible place for an extended weekend trip last week.

While Singapore has been engulfed by an intermittent haze, Bali was quite clear and we enjoyed our fair share of sunsets this time around. See for yourself 🙂

Sunset in Ubud, Bali in the midst of Padi fields

Sunset in Ubud, Bali in the midst of Padi fields

Sunset at the beach

Sunset at the beach

Sunset at Tanah Lot, Bali

Sunset at Tanah Lot, Bali

Sunset at Tanah Lot, Bali

Sunset at Tanah Lot, Bali

Sunset at Tanah Lot, Bali

Sunset at Tanah Lot, Bali

Dusk at Tanah Lot, Bali

Dusk at Tanah Lot, Bali

I wrote this post while listening to Shreyl Crow’s Soak Up The Sun and it’s just so apt for my mood today 🙂

And ofcourse, we are going back again!

Happy Weekend folks! TGIF!

Everything will be okay.

Everything will be okay.

Ride to Toblerone Mountain

As I mentioned in the previous post, we disembarked at Trockener Stegg to take the larger cable car to get to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.

Clad in layers of clothing, we now boarded the cable car. It was a relief to see the much larger and strong looking cabin as the day was gusty and drizzly. We hoped it won’t dangle and sway in the strong wind threatening to crash. Turned out, it was much more stable than the small gondolas and the ride was smooth letting us relax and enjoy the views.

Cable car to Matterhorn, Switzerland

Cable car to Matterhorn, Switzerland

As we started to move, we realized we were above several mountains now. We could see the snow covered expanses and the more unforgiving yet striking landscape around.

Views from Cable car to Matterhorn

Views from Cable car to Matterhorn

Views from Cable car to Matterhorn

Views from Cable car to Matterhorn

Finally we were here, at the final halt. We got down eagerly that we had managed to get here but also slightly dismayed that it was quite cloudy that day and hardly anything around was visible at that height. We ventured inside the station and were amazed to see it was built right inside the mountain with rugged rocks exposed everywhere.

At Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

At Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

At Matterhorn Glacier Paradise inside the mountain

At Matterhorn Glacier Paradise inside the mountain

As the observation deck came into view, our hoods went up and we stepped out in the biting cold at -1 degree Celsius. Stepping out felt like someone had kicked you in the gut and boxed your ears out. The difference in temperature was dramatic accentuated by the wind, fog and the snow around. We quickly snapped some pictures and trundled a few steps in the snow, I even picked some up with my bare hands only to realize later it was a bad idea. Chilled to the core, we now ran back inside.

At Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

At Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

At Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

At Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

People accompanying me complained of headache and nausea and so we settled in the super-heated and comfortable restaurant there. I read somewhere that the restaurant is new and it really was a very nice place at that height. Again, salute to the swiss authorities for making it convenient for tourists.

With not much to do and the views hidden behind thick clouds, we decided to head back sooner than planned. But not before going back out in the snow for a bit.

At Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

At Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

Although this excursion wasn’t ideal due to the clouds blocking all the views, we did manage to catch some from different points along the journey. Besides, the whole adventure was something that we will remember always. And it just means we have something to come back for 🙂

Another view from Cable car from Matterhorn to the lower cable station

Another view from Cable car from Matterhorn to the lower cable station

The ride back to Zermatt was smooth and uneventful. With a heavy heart we boarded the train for Interlaken regretting not making plans for an overnight stay in the pretty little town.

The Alps, the peaks, the trek, Swiss rail and the many train rides, the cable ride, the lakes, the villages, our log studio, the pretty lane in Interlaken where we stayed, the brilliant blue lakes, the vistas and the sight of paragliders high up in the mountains … Switzerland did not disappoint!

And this is where a most memorable journey comes to a close :-/

A quaint town and a treacherous ride

Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt, Switzerland

Interlaken to Zermatt turned out to be an amazing day trip for us. While originally not part of the itinerary, we decided to go for it after some deliberation. More so, as we were put off by the hordes of tourists making a bee-line for Jungfrau, “Top of Europe” (3.5K m).  Instead, we zeroed in on Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (higher at 3.8K m) accessible from Zermatt. While getting to Jungfrau lets you ride to the highest railway station, getting to Matterhorn means you get to ride to the highest cable car station. And that is an adventure in itself!

Getting to Zermatt and then to the top of Matterhorn turned out to be a lot cheaper as well. We set out by train which was covered by Swiss rail pass. While we had to interchange twice, the views along the journey were truly spectacular. It’s commendable of the swiss authorities to have developed all this infrastructure making it so easy for tourists to travel around without hassle.

Horse Carriage, Zermatt, Switzerland

Horse Carriage, Zermatt, Switzerland

Tryst with mountain goats, Zermatt, Switzerland

Tryst with mountain goats, Zermatt, Switzerland

As we got out of train station and started walking along the streets of Zermatt, we immediately fell in love with this unassuming town. The place is charming with quaint cafes, restaurants, boutiques, sloping roof chalets and stores selling hiking boots and equipment. Horse carriages and mountain goats milling around and the gushing canal along the streets makes it all the more alluring.

Canal along the street, Zermatt, Switzerland

Canal along the street, Zermatt, Switzerland

As we had set out early morning without proper breakfast, we made a pit stop at this café called Hornli Beck. The place was cozy and warm and the food turned out to be so good. Rejuvenated with the rest and some hot food in our bellies, we made our way to the cable car station. We knew that this was going to be a 40 min ride. While I had been on cable car rides before this long a ride was new for me too.

Hornli Beck, Zermatt, Switzerland

Hornli Beck, Zermatt, Switzerland

The ride starts in those small gondolas till a certain station and from there on, you ride in the much bigger more stable cabin. With much excitement we boarded the small gondola and settled on the ledges.

Cable Car ride to Matterhorn, Switzerland

Cable Car ride to Matterhorn, Switzerland

As we gained height, we could already spot the majestic Alps and the scenery around. The weather was cloudy and very windy that particular day making the ride much more adventurous as the gondolas swayed in the howling wind. There were a couple of scary moments when the gondola suddenly jerked or when the entire cable just stopped for a few mins without warning, leaving us dangling precariously with that one cable keeping us from crashing down and disintegrating into a hundred pieces. Those minutes of suspension in mid-air with utter silence around except the chilling wind whistling outside left us anxious and wondering about what was going on. I guess it was just one of those routine things when they had to stop the machinery to make some technical checks. As the gondola jerked into motion each time that happened, we heaved a sigh of relief and settled back on the ledges again.

On the cable car, Matterhorn, Switzerland

On the cable car, Matterhorn, Switzerland

We continued to ride on and now the snow covered peaks seemed much closer and the air crispier and chillier. We put on more layers of clothing in preparation as we approached the last of the stations where we needed to disembark to take the larger cable car.

Eventually, we were at the last stop called Trockener Stegg. We ran out to the open observation area to catch a glimpse of the peaks without the glass obstruction. The weather outside had transformed leaving us shocked as we stepped outside exposed to the elements. The wind was in full force threatening to misbalance us and so nippy, it threatened to freeze us right to the bones. In no time, we ran back inside under the protection of the thick walls and glass panels.

View from observation area at Trockener Stegg

View from observation area at Trockerner Stegg

We now made our way to the cable car station mentally preparing to go to the top. By now, we could imagine how cold it would get further up and were suddenly grateful for our thick jackets, hoods, socks and shoes.

We waited for the cable car now and 10 mins later, it was ready for us to board.

More on it in the next post …