The Occasional Traveller http://theoccasionaltraveller.com Occasionally Travelling, Always Inspiring Wed, 26 Nov 2014 07:18:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The sights, sounds and savouries of Belem, Lisbonhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/11/26/sights-sounds-savouries-belem-lisbon/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/11/26/sights-sounds-savouries-belem-lisbon/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16020 Checking out the district of Belem, home to impressive historical monuments and some very authentic Portuguese culture, including the origin of Portugese egg tarts!

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After spending 4 hours standing in line to see the Roman Galleries in downtown Lisbon, we decided to head out to nearby Belem to stretch our legs and grab a bite. Belem turned out to be one of my favourite districts to visit in Lisbon, and I returned to this little district again when I returned to Lisbon on the tail end of my trip. It’s about 20 minutes from central Lisbon and full of history, art and of course the super famous Portugese egg tarts are not to be missed – here are some things to do in Belem when you are there!

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Sign
Welcome to Belem

 

PASTEIS DE BELEM

Portugal - Lisbon Pasteis de Belem
Lunch at Pasteis de Belem!

Portugal is famous for its custard egg tarts, known as Pasteis de Natas throughout the country, but if you are headed to Belem, the one thing you have to do is to check out the originator of this wonderful little pastry snack at Pasteis de Belem. These yummy snacks were created right here in Belem, by the monks from the nearby Jeronimos Monastery. These egg tarts are so authentic that the rest of the country isn’t allowed to use the term ‘Pasteis de Belem’ because of their copyright (hence they are called Natas instead)!

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Pasteis de Belem Entrance
Check out the queue spilling out the front door

You can’t quite miss this place – it’s likely to have a takeaway queue spilling out its doors which can be quite off-putting, but I suggest popping in to sit down and eat if you can – walk past the queues and mill around inside, it’s surprisingly big, and there are seats in the back as well. It gets really crowded during peak hours but they do quite brisk business, so if you wait around a bit, you should be able to find yourself a seat. Each waiter services a specific area, so look out for the one in charge of your zone to place your order.

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Pasteis de Belem
Pasteis de Belem! Check out the awesome custard

The famous Pasteis de Belem (1.05 euro per pc) is definitely high quality – the custard is tasty without being too cloying, and the pastry layers are crispy and flaky. I highly suggest you order at least 2 pcs each!

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Pasteis de Belem Snacks
There are a whole variety of sweet and savoury pastries available to order

But the shop sells other Portuguese snacks besides the egg tarts – we tried a bunch of things: beef croquette, cod cake and ham quiche. Our lunch was then topped off with some Portuguese drinks – I had the Sagres beer while Y had the cutest Vino Verde or Green wine (it’s quite light) called Gato.

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Pasteis de Belem Azulejos
Portugal – Lisbon Belem Pasteis de Belem Azulejos

Also, take note of the lovely unique Portuguese Azulejos designs on the walls – these designs with animals are different from the Moorish inspired geometric shaped ones.

Pasteis de Belem
Rua de Belem 84-92
Opening Hours: 8am – 11pm daily

 

MOSTEIRO DOS JERONIMÓS (Jeronimos Monastery)

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Monastery Church Exterior
We happened to run into a wedding party there, pity for them it was raining!

This UNESCO World Heritage site is just down the road from the Pasteis de Belem shop, and quite a massive complex. It cost 12 euro for a joint ticket to enter the monastery and the tower of Belem (more on that below), but if you’re feeling broke, the Church of Santa Maria is free to enter and gives an excellent taster on the beauty of the monastery’s architecture.

The late Gothic Manueline style is kinda dark but really grand – the ceiling is a sight to behold, the detailing of the architecture is exquisite. You’ll also see the tombs of Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama and poet Luís de Camões in the church.

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Monastery Church
Santa Maria Church – they conduct services here still, a wedding just ended the first time I visited
Portugal - Lisbon Belem Monastery Church Ceiling
Taking in the grand carved ceiling

 

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Monastery Church Cross
If you do go into the monastery, you can see the church from the upper choir area, including the cross pictured here
Portugal - Lisbon Belem Monastery Church Chandelier
More detail of a chandelier and stained glass window in the distance

I would recommend you enter the monastery if you have the time – the architecture is quite fantastic to see up close, and there are a bunch of permanent exhibitions on the history of Lisbon within which make for a good primer on the city. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to visit the monastery after seeing just the Church the first time around, but I’m glad I decided to give it a shot.

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Monastery Courtyard
The main courtyard inside the monastery
Portugal - Lisbon Belem Monastery Pillar Detail
Just some of the exquisite detail on display

Jeronimos Monastery
Rua de Belem 84-92
Opening Hours: 10am – 5.30pm [oct-may] or 6.30pm [may-sep] daily
Entry: A single ticket is 10 euros. I bought a combined ticket with Torre de Belem for 12 euro. It’s free entry on the first Sunday of each month!

 

TORRE DE BELEM (Tower of Belem)

The tower of Belem may sound quite as if it is a large and imposing structure, but it is actually a lot smaller than I thought it would be. It is a bit of a walk along the Tagus river from the Monastery (you can cross over via the underpass at the Padrao (more on that below) for a more scenic walk along the river, or you’ll have to walk past the Contemporary Art Museum till you reach the overhead bridge closer to the tower itself.

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Tower
Torre de Belem just off the coastline

The tower itself is connected to the main land by a little bridge – I was there in the late afternoon, which evidently was high tide and with the rain coming down, getting to the tower without getting splashed at by the waves was a matter of precision timing and wave jumping!

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Tower Water
The waves would splash up into this auditorium of sorts, surprising many unsuspecting guests with wet shoes

The tower was initially built as part of the city’s defense, but since they built another tower further up the river, this one became less critical as a fort. You can still see the old cannons facing the water on the ground level.

You can also go up to the top of the tower for a panoramic 360 view of the surrounding area, but note that the stairwell is REALLY narrow and winding, so much so that they implemented a queue and alarm system to control the traffic up and down the spiral staircase. After queuing to go up, you get to the top and you see another long snaking queue to go down again!

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Tower Statue
on one of the outer landings. you can climb the stairs

Torre de Belem
Avenida Brasília 1400-038
Opening Hours: 10am – 5.30pm [oct-may] or 6.30pm [may-sep] daily
Entry: A single ticket is 6 euros. I bought a combined ticket with Torre de Belem for 12 euro. It’s free entry on the first Sunday of each month!

 

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries)

From afar, I thought this was the Torre de Belem at first, but this rather unusual looking structure is less of a tower and more of a rather fancy looking monument. The Monument to the Discoveries was built to honour Portugal’s age of Discovery, where explorers like Vasco de Gama and Ferdinand Magellan among others sailed across uncharted territories to discover new lands.

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Monument BnW
The monument with the iconic red bridge in the background
Portugal - Lisbon Belem Monument Side
These are all significant Portuguese figures on both sides of the monument

It doesn’t seem so big from a distance, but it’s one of those things where the closer you get, the bigger you realize the monument looms! You can climb up to the roof – I’d already been on top of the Torre de Belem so I passed on that, but I think this one gives you a better view and might be less crowded.

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Monument Sword
Giant sword – the commemorative plaque is for the 5th centenary of the death of Henry the Navigator

I was quite fond of this huge wind rose and map spanning 50m that covered the ground right by the monument. A gift from the South African government because Portuguese explorers were recognized as the first to discover the Cape of Good Hope.

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Monument Wind Rose Illustration
Blow wind blow! The compass rose and map cover the the floor of the surrounding plaza
Portugal - Lisbon Belem Monument Wind Rose
Pointing to Singapore! The Portuguese had more presence in nearby countries like Macau and Malacca, not so much in Singapore which was a British colony

Padrão dos descobrimentos
Avenida Brasília 1400-038
Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm [oct-feb] or 7pm [mar-sep] daily
Entry: A single ticket is 3 euros which lets you go to the top 56m high and enjoy quite a spectacular view of the surrounding area

 

MUSEU DA ELECTRICIDADE

We had no intention of visiting this spot, but by pure serendipity, there was a large poster advertising a Vhils exhibition at the Museum da Electricidade just as we got off the bus in Belem. I recognized it immediately – like I would in Lagos with Roa, you can’t quite miss Vhils either. Vhils, or Alexandre Farto, is quite a prominent street artist whose works I first saw in London, so I convinced Y that we needed to see this, so after a satisfying lunch of Pasteis de Belem, we walked over to the Museum da Electricidade to check it out.

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Vhils Exhibition Building
You can already see Vhils works from a distance!
Portugal - Lisbon Belem Vhils Exhibition Water Tower
A closer shot of the Vhils work on the water tower using just old posters to create

This was once a functioning power station though it was converted into a cultural space and museum in 1990. The absolute best part about this exhibition is that it was FREE. Titled Dissecção/Dissection, this is Vhil’s largest solo show to date – and this Portuguese street artist is just in his 20s, imagine that!

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Vhils Exhibition Poster
The best part… it was FREE. How amazing is that.

Vhils has a very distinctive subtractive sort of style, in which he often uses the textures of the surrounding surfaces he works, chips away at them to form detailed faces within. A particular technique he’s famous for is using little explosives which blow up on a wall and when the smoke clears, the design emerges. Absolutely amazing to see in action through the videos they had on site.

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Vhils Exhibition Art
You have to see it up close to appreciate – this one was done on old billboards if I remember correctly
Portugal - Lisbon Belem Vhils Exhibition Restituir
Chipping away…
Portugal - Lisbon Belem Vhils Exhibition Scaffolding
One particular work in front of what looked like a random pile of styrofoam required you to climb 2 storeys up to see. Amazingly, this is what it looks like when you look down:
Portugal - Lisbon Belem Vhils Exhibition Top View
Can you see the faces? How someone can see these things in their head and create them is mindboggling to me

This video gives you an idea of what the exhibition was like, probably better than my pictures do! It was definitely something you had to see in person to really appreciate. Over 60,000 people attended in total, which is pretty impressive!

There’s another part of the museum which shows some real life dioramas on how the power station used to work before being converted, which gives you a bit of context to the place. But other than that, there isn’t any real need to go in unless they’re having a kick ass exhibition.

Museu de Electricidade
Avenida Brasília 1300-598

I wish I had a little more time though, I would have loved to check out the Centro Cultural de Belem, but it is a MASSIVE space so sadly, I decided to skip it in favour of seeing more of Lisbon while the weather was being cooperative.

Portugal - Lisbon Belem CCB
the CCB, or the Centro Cultural de Belem

Getting There

Take the tram #15 from Praca Figueres or Praca do Comercio. It costs 2.85 euro per trip so I’d recommend either getting a day pass (24 hours, 6euro) or getting the via viagem card (1.40 euro) to top up. You can buy your ticket on the tram in the middle carriages and it takes about 20mins or so. Get off at the Mosteiro de Jeronimos stop.

Alternative, take the bus #718 instead (I think there are other buses as well, this one just happened to be the one available). It follows a parallel route to Belem, except it runs inland instead of along the river like the tram. It feels like there are more locals on the bus compared to the tram. I personally preferred the tram ride because the bus was hella bumpy in some areas, but you do get to see a different side of Lisbon, including this beauty by MAR:

Portugal - Lisbon Belem Mar Street Art
The bus zipped by too quickly so I didn’t manage a picture – this is from Goncalo Mar’s website

 

Anything else you’d recommend to check out in Belem that I might have missed? Share with me so I’ll have to go back some day and rectify that!

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A Retreat to Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Mai Khaohttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/11/24/anantara-vacation-club-phuket-mai-khao/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/11/24/anantara-vacation-club-phuket-mai-khao/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16161 A review of Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Mai Khao, a beautiful resort village close to the airport and pleasantly removed from the bustle of Patong Beach.

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So here’s another trip that I sadly didn’t take – I was in Phuket earlier that same week for a friend’s hen’s night, so I asked Y to check out the Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Mai Khao on my behalf instead. Eagle-eyed readers might recognize the writer Y as my fellow companion who pops up in the latest Portugal trip recaps as well as some earlier trips – she was in the need for a quick weekend getaway, so this opportunity came in at exactly the right time. Read on for her take on this resort and don’t get too envious… I know I definitely was!


Y:

I love taking short solo retreats to beach destinations. They are my way of spending time with myself: to read, do absolutely nothing else for anybody, and just recharge. In recent years, I’ve come to favour going to Phuket as it is one of the easiest and relatively more affordable beach destinations for a quick get-away – this is my 3rd trip to Phuket in the last 2 years! In less than 4 hours, door-to-door, I can get from a congested Singapore to a laid-back Thai resort. Plus, I am almost guaranteed to be greeted by friendly faces and hospitable hosts.

My must-haves for a short weekend retreat: easy pool and beach access from my room is a MUST, simply because that gets me enough (lying) down time to read amidst the soothing symphony of water, sun, breeze. Forget about all the adventure activities, shopping, nightlife – I save those for longer trips with friends. Anantara Vacation Club definitely fulfilled this criteria and I had a terrific stay, now if only my retreat had been longer than 2D1N… #wanderlust.

LOCATION

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket (AVC) and its sister resort Anantara Phuket Villas are located along Mai Khao Beach, just a short 15-minute drive from the Phuket International Airport. (jac: Y was actually with me when we visited Holiday Inn Mai Khao Resorts earlier in the year! Anantara is located in the same area further south)

 

THE ROOM (or rather, THE VILLA)

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Villa_1
Entering the villa

I had checked the weather prior to arriving in Phuket, and boy did it look disappointing – the forecast was “Thunderstorms, 100% precipitation”. So I was anticipating being holed up in my room with a book, or two for the majority of my time. Imagine my joy when I checked in to this beautiful 1-bedroom villa.

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Villa_4
Bedroom – definitely no problems getting cooped up in here

The villa door opened into a living room with a full kitchen and dining area, connected to a walk-in wardrobe between the bedroom and a large, spacious bathroom. Both the living room and the bedroom opened up to the private pool. I definitely didn’t mind being cooped up in here!

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Villa_5
Private pool and deck attached to the villa, just step out beyond the doorway of your bedroom…
Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Villa_6
Here’s the pool from the outside

My favourite part of the villa? The bathroom. Yes, the bathroom and it’s accompanying outdoor shower. If SIA’s ‘Chandelier’ music video was shot in a modern luxury bathroom, it might just be this. So much space to dance around and with a bathtub in the center of it all to fall upon.

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Villa_9
giant luxurious bathroom!
Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Villa_2
Living room with sofa-bed

A villa of this configuration can accommodate up to 4 persons, as the L-shaped sofa in the living room can be turned into a bed that sleeps two.

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Villa_7
Kitchen and dining area

The kitchen is fully equipped with an electric stove, a full-sized fridge (not a bar fridge!) and even has cooking ware all ready for guests to use. I was pretty impressed and slightly tempted to cook just so I could use these amenities. I did get to cook eventually though not in the resort, keep reading for more on that…

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Villa_8
You can even do your laundry if you want to!

 

THE RESORT

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Resort_1
View from the 6th storey room balcony

Entering AVC Phuket Mai Khao was like stepping into my own summer home (that is if I was rich enough to have one, a girl can daydream) with the resort staff so welcoming and friendly that it almost feels like they know you. AVC has about 100 standalone villas and 6 floors of apartment suites, spaciously laid out and yet all comfortably within walking distance. The property has its common facilities all conveniently located in one area – the pool, 24-hour fitness centre, kids club, playground and restaurant Chaam.

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket  Resort_4
Turtle Mart – call me auntie but I love checking out local grocery stores, which is where you find a lot of insight into local culture, and of course its treasures (aka my snacks and beer)

I was surprised to also find that the only ‘shopping area’ in Mai Khao called Turtle Village is literally across the road from AVC – in fact Turtle Village actually looks a lot like a retail extension of AVC. It is small, by Singaporean-standards, but has a good mix of retail shops and restaurants. I heard that the Irish pub, Bill Bentley, serves up rather good food too, but I didn’t have time to try it myself. And my favourite offering at Turtle Village? The grocery shop called Turtle Mart! It is larger than a mini-mart and offers a wide range of items from the usual snacks to even frozen meat and fresh vegetables.

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Resort_4
Playground and bike stand from above

This place is definitely very convenient for a family vacationing with children. AVC has a signature kids club called ‘Jakka Club’ (Jakka means ‘crab’ in Thai!) that believes in arranging activities for children to take them away from their iPads and digital indulgences. Now that’s something I agree with, and apparently many parents who come here love the idea too! I grew up with annual family vacations at beach resorts and being ‘deposited’ at the resort’s kids club for a good amount of time, and I loved it – peers to play with, no parents to boss me around, learning new things. In fact, I believed my parents appreciated kids clubs more than I did. Come on parents, it’s time to re-acquaint children with what their hands and feet can do besides swipe across digital screens!

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket  Resort_1
Strolling around the resort is a tranquil experience

For couples and solo travellers like myself, the easy access to Anantara Phuket Villa’s facilities is a delight. This sister property adds to the variety of dining options with another 3 restaurants: La Sala (contemporary fusion of Italian and Thai), Sea.Fire.Salt (seafood grill by the beachside), and The Treehouse (Thai-style tapas and cocktails with an elevated view of the resort).

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Resort_4
Lounging pool side. The weather was actually pretty nice

Food choices aside, I really liked the infinity pool and its cabanas facing an undisturbed view of the beach. There was nothing much at the beach when I was there though. The red flags were up, warning against swimming in the waters as there were rip-currents. So the usual sea-sport activities that AVC offered were not available then.

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Resort_5
Quiet beach is definitely a far cry from Patong

The lack of activity on the shore suited me just fine – I liked the endless stretch of sand pristine and quiet. And Mai Khao beach is just that: a peaceful, tranquil area with just enough to do and more than enough to chill in. It’s becoming more popular for visitors who want to move away from the crowd in Patong beach.

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Resort_2
Ducks! A common sight as you wander around the resort

Getting from my villa at AVC to the beach was easy – either a leisurely 3-minute stroll through the rustic Anantara Phuket Villas or a short ferry by the buggy service from AVC which is available anytime, even on short notice!

 

ACTIVITIES

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Cooking_1
Me and Chef Wat

AVC has quite the variety of activities for its guests – I decided to try its signature Spice Spoons cooking class. The process was enjoyable and fun under the instruction of jovial Chef Wat who laughed at my lame jokes and loves answering “Yes Please!” in a boisterous voice. He took a lot of pride in introducing Thai culinary and was very enthusiastic about explaining why certain ingredients come before others. It was great learning for this noob cooking student.

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Cooking_4
Cooking up a storm!

In 1.5 hours I made 4 Thai dishes – Som Tam (thai papaya salad), Tom Kha Gai (a milky version of the popular Tom Yum soup), Goong Phad Nam Prik Pao (stir fry prawns with chili paste), and even a dessert Kluai Nam Wa (bananas in coconut milk). I was pleasantly surprised at how well they all tasted. That could only be attributed to good guidance from the teacher, and of course a diligent student who had…. common sense and working taste buds.

Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Cooking_4
Ingredients and recipe to cook up a storm

If I had more time to spare, I would have liked to try the other activities which seemed fun yet relaxing: yoga in the mornings, guided cycling tours along the beach and around Mai Khao area, the spa treatments at Anantara Spa among other daily activities. What I thought was a nice touch to its offering was the availability of bicycles to guests. Anyone can simply pick up a bicycle and ride within the two sprawling resort compounds. It’s quicker than on foot and for the couples, leisure bicycle rides are kinda romantic :)

AVC Phuket Mai Khao was opened only about 18 months ago, and already they are adding a whole new wing of additional villas; some in time for Christmas this year and the rest will be completed by next quarter of 2015. They are also thinking of introducing outdoor fitness equipment stations all around the resort compound so that guests can chart a fitness routine of their own during their stay at AVC. Additionally, there will be a new inflatable floating screen for the pool, which means guests can enjoy movie nights IN the pool. That certainly seems like a fun vacationing activity to have!

THE COST

A quick check on the Anantara website showed that the rates for the 1 bedroom villa during this holiday period were going at S$650/night, so this would probably be if you’re willing to splurge on yourself or if you’re going with a small group and can split the cost! The apartment suites are much cheaper at around S$240/night instead.

About Anantara Vacation Club

Launched in 2010, Anantara Vacation Club (AVC) is a unique Shared Holiday Ownership concept offering Club Owners stays in destinations across Asia and beyond with a flexible points system. The Club Resort Collection includes a Signature Club Resort in Phuket and luxury private villas on Koh Samui in Thailand and Bali in Indonesia, plus suites in Queenstown in New Zealand, Bangkok in Thailand and Sanya in China. Over the next five years, the Club will add up to 10 additional resorts. Club Owners can enjoy stays at 29 Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas in eight countries worldwide, under the Club Escapes Privileges Program, with more properties scheduled to open. An affiliation with Resort Condominiums International (RCI) opens up access to over 4,000 resorts worldwide to Club Owners. Sales preview centres are found in Bali Koh Samui, Phuket, Shanghai and Sanya.

For more information visit www.anantaravacationclub.com

Accommodation courtesy of Anantara Vacation Club Phuket Mai Khao, but all views and opinions in this review are purely that of the writer and her experience.

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My Singapore Writers Festival 2014 Journeyhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/11/17/singapore-writers-festival-2014-journey/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/11/17/singapore-writers-festival-2014-journey/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16119 Here are some highlights from the travel programmes that I attended at the Singapore Writers Festival 2014, the annual literary arts festival held in Singapore

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Last weekend was the closing weekend of the Singapore Writers Festival, the annual literary arts festival held to celebrate the love for the written word in Singapore. Somehow, I always happened to be away during the festival period previously, so since I was finally in town this year during the festival, I decided to pop by and check out some of the travel writing related programmes.

SWF2014
Festival Village at Singapore Management University Green along Bras Basah Road

Firstly, the SWF is quite massive. For just $20 for a festival pass, you had access to hundreds of events over the 9 days.Having to pick and choose what to go for can be a little intimidating! I ended up doing 3 things – checking out a panel discussion on travel guides, attending a lecture by a travel writer, as well as taking a tour of Singapore’s outlying districts to see how they inspired our own local writers.

PANEL: BEYOND TRAVEL GUIDES

First I popped by the panel for Beyond Travel Guides, which features Canadian travel author Michael Buckley, who’s written quite extensively about Tibet, and China guidebook writer/publisher Yap Seow Choong for a discussion on guidebooks in this day and age.

SWF2014 - Beyond Travel Guides
Beyond Travel Guides panel. Moderator Pamela Ho (left) with Michael Buckley (center) and Yap Seow Choong (right)

It was Saturday morning, so a smallish group, and there were a small handful of travel writers and bloggers in the audience even. Quite an interesting discussion, here are a couple of discussion points that I enjoyed:

  • The diversity of guidebooks – Guidebooks aren’t all packaged or written the same way, even if they belong to the same publisher. It depends very much on who their audience is and what their interests are. On hindsight, I wonder why this has never occurred to me that Lonely Planet New York perhaps might have quite different formatting than Lonely Planet Beijing for example – I’d always just assumed the standard layout would be the same.
  • The overexposure of guidebooks – places change when they’ve been listed in guidebooks, I liked this discussion on the dilemma of the ‘responsibility’ of the writer to write about what he/she knows at the risk of irreparably changing the place by exposing it to the world.
  • The best sources of information – both writers advocated talking to the locals to get the best information, though they said locals sometimes tend to have quite a different perception on what is interesting or not. Seow Choong likes talking to taxi drivers and students especially
  • Travel guides still rock – both writers still used travel guidebooks quite frequently despite the information age – you don’t need data and you definitely don’t have to spend all your time researching when all the information is in one place – the book is still the most reliable source to turn to quite often, even if somewhat outdated

 

LECTURE: THE ROADS I TRAVELLED

After that hour, I headed over to the School of the Arts for a special lecture called The Roads I Travelled by Paul Theroux, famous for this books featuring train travel like The Great Railway Bazaar, and one written in the 70s set in Singapore called Saint Jack, which was also turned into a movie. There was a separate ticket at $20 for this event, separate from the festival pass, and it was a sold out event! I was lucky to get a seat quite near close to the stage the front in the lower levels.

SWF2014 - Paul Theroux
The Roads I Travelled lecture by Paul Theroux, moderated by Yeoh Siew Hoon

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never read any of his books before, but I enjoyed his lecture where he talked about how places changed and what it was like to travel.

  • Travel as transformation – He said that one of the most enlightening things is to go back to a place and see how it transformed. He talked of how Singapore looked back in the 70s, with barely any tall buildings
  • Travel as flight and pursuit – simultaneously, travel is to flee and get away from your daily life, as well as a pursuit and chase to discover new things, or to follow others, and that the secret about travel is to discover whether or not we were meant to go back to where we came from. I’m pretty sure I’ll go back home, but then again, who knows?
  • Travel vs Tourism – he broke it down as travel being about having a bad time, that the hardships of travel revealed what you were truly like to yourself, whereas tourism was all about having a good time and enjoying yourself. Now I still don’t like how we sometimes glorify the word ‘travel’ over being a tourist because I believe we are all tourists when it comes down to it, but this was an interesting way to look at it.
  • Travel breeding humility and compassion – this was how he said travel changed him, making him into a more humble and compassionate person. And while his travels in recent years were more limited to the USA rather than global travels, it made him realize the a lot of the problems he had seen overseas were actually right here at home, as he told an anecdote of a woman telling of her son going to Africa to ‘help people’, when their home state in the USA needed so much help of its own

 

LITERARY WALK: BALIK KAMPUNG OUTER RING

On Sunday, yet another precious early morning where I was awake, I headed back to the Festival Village and hopped on the bus for the Balik Kampung Literary Walk of the Outer Ring, which would bring us to far-flung parts of Singapore that even not many of the locals would visit unless we lived there ourselves or had some reason to go there.

Balik Kampung, which is Malay for ‘going home’, is the name of an anthology of short stories by local Singaporean writers inspired by the neighbourhoods they lived in and edited by Verena Tay. For this tour, we were going to hope on a coach and visit 4 of the locations in the Western and Northern ends of Singapore to see the places that inspired the writers to create those story which will be found in the upcoming 3rd editions of the anthology series. We were a group of about 30 people accompanied by the writers themselves as well as the editor Verena.

SWF2014 - Booklet
Reading material on the bus – we received A4 printouts of story excerpts, as well as had the authors talk to us about the process, inspiration and other story details.
SWF2014 - Outer Circle
Nature meets the city state

Story 1 was based in Bukit Gombak by Joey Chin and Wong Hongyi, a story set around a muslim coffee shop called Thohirah. This neighbourhood has a large Muslim population and is more popularly known as Little Guilin, a disused quarry where they used to film period Chinese dramas. We walked through the estate, a little like lost ducks as the writers pointed out bits of the neighbourhood.

SWF2014 - Bukit Merah
Joey and Hongyi showing us the coffeeshop in the distance

Story 2 was based on an old crime and urban legends by Christopher Fok, and we stopped by Choa Chu Kang Park for a quick toilet break.

SWF2014 - Suicide Bridge
The pedestrian bridge across the expressway in the distance is apparently known around this parts as suicide bridge because people had taken to jumping off that bridge. It otherwise looks quite innocuous.

Story 3 brought us northwards to Yishun, which was writer Colin Cheong’s old neighbourhood, and he had pretty funny stories to tell about his past as a coast guard and teacher in charge of outdoor activities. We visited Yishun dam, where you can find mangroves, the last fishing village in Singapore and apparently crocodiles so you should think twice about sitting close to the water’s edge. I’d been here once before at night, but it’s a pretty nice serene spot.

SWF2014 - Yishun Dam Panorama
Panorama of Yishun Dam

Our last story brought us to Seletar Hills, once an old airbase which they have recently converted into a modern aerospace hub. I liked that the author Brandon Chew brought us out to the park where some of his story took place and read his excerpt out there – the rest of the authors read their excerpt on the bus, which at least made those journeys feel less lengthy but I felt like I spent most of my time on the bus.

SWF2014 - Seletar Hills
Under the tree in Seletar with Brandon

Overall I thought the tour was a great idea, but since it was the first time they were doing it too, I think they can afford to do more to keep it more interesting in future – it is quite dependent on how interesting the authors were (some more so than others). I would have liked more interactivity with the various neighbourhoods, perhaps a smaller more intimate group, and to have come away feeling like I’d really been behind the scenes of the stories.

So that was this year’s Singapore’s Writers Festival for me – did anybody else attend? If it did one thing, it definitely made me want to get cracking on the writing, which I know I’ve been slacking off on!

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A rare chance to enter the Roman Galleries of Lisbonhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/11/11/rare-chance-enter-roman-galleries-lisbon/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/11/11/rare-chance-enter-roman-galleries-lisbon/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16115 We just happened to be there on the rare day the Galerias Romanas were opened to the public. Find out what it's like to enter the Roman Galleries of Lisbon

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And finally, more Portugal blogs! Check out the overall trip recap for the quick and dirty about my 2-week trip around Portugal. You might have noticed a mention of something called the Galerias Romanas when I was in Lisbon…

Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Sign
Galerias Romanas was open to public on 26 – 28 Sep 2014. We visited on 28 Sep 2014, the last day of entry!

Now prior to this trip, I hadn’t even known there was any sort of Roman influence in Portugal. It just happened that while me and Y were wandering around the Praça do Comércio (Commercial Square) area in downtown Lisbon and taking the famous Tram 28 around town, we came across a rather unusual scene – a portion of the road Rua da Prata had been blocked off to vehicular traffic save for the trams which run on fixed paths, and there was a really, really long queue formed on the sidewalk next to it.

Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Tram Pass
Look at how close the tram passes by overhead

If that wasn’t weird enough, suddenly heads, and then people, started popping up from a manhole in the ground. What on earth was going on here?

Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Entrance Road
Who are these mole people?

After a little bit of research and asking around, it turns out we happened to be in Lisbon during a rather rare event – The Roman Galleries of Lisbon are actually an ancient underground tunnels possibly used for water supply, drainage and storage that were discovered in 1771. These tunnels are usually flooded and have to be drained of water every year, and while that’s nothing particularly exciting in itself, the city council opens the tunnels to the public during a 3-day affair which attracts crazy long queues, with locals and tourists flocking to the site to check out some local history for themselves.

We Singaporeans think that anything with a queue must probably be for something good, and many of the locals I spoke to said that they wished to see them too, so Y and I decided to spend our morning checking out the Roman Galleries for ourselves, and participate in this rare event as a part of our trip.

We thought we would pop by a bit earlier to queue – the tunnels open from 10am – 5pm, but at 945am, the queue was already 2 blocks long!

Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Queue
This was the queue which ends at the end of the street – about 1 block left to go! Imagine turning around and seeing 3x this queue…

Nonetheless, we popped into the queue to wait our turn. Groups were let in about 25 at a time, 2 – 3 groups at a go, but the queue was still super slow moving. As the hours ticked by, the queue inched forward, and as I looked behind at one point, it extended to a 3rd and possibly a 4th block! Man~ By the time it turned noon, they closed the queue for the day, imagine that.

Since we already in line, patiently we waited. Lots of people wandered by, staring curiously at this line of crazy people waiting in the sun. It was a good thing there were 2 of us, so someone could wander off for a break while the other stood in line. There were coffee and ice cream breaks, and just wandering around for a bit of a stretch as we continued to inch forward, bit by bit. There were all sorts in the queue – from groups of students and entire families, to couples and other lone travellers – it felt a little like everyone was there.

Finally, close to 4 hours from the time we joined the queue, we made it to the front, and it was our turn to descend into these famed tunnels! What secrets would wait beneath? It’s a climb down some narrow stairs where you have to watch your head from the low stone ceilings.

Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Manhole
Going down…

The air was damp, humid and smelled not unexpectedly, like a sewer. Volunteers who have probably spent most of their weekend down the hole were clad in wellingtons and rainboots, there are puddles around but nothing that you need to wade through. We crowded into the narrow corridor, blinking in the dim lighting. There wasn’t much space, not with another 2 groups already down there.

Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Tunnel
First glimpse of the tunnel, waiting for the rest of the group

Most unfortunately, our guide didn’t speak any English at all, despite the group being largely non-local, but she soldiered on nonetheless, probably explaining quite thoroughly in Portuguese the history and science of the roman galleries to those who understood. For the rest of us who couldn’t comprehend, it was merely a lot of looking around and photo snapping. Luckily we had had a bit of a primer while in the queue from another English speaking volunteer who told us a little bit about these tunnels – that they were used as storage at some point, and now they helped keep the city from flooding.

Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Guide Group
Guide explaining about the Roman Galleries in a rather tight space

The tunnel system or at least what was accessible to the public doesn’t look very big – there are several ‘caves’ alongside the main pathways, thought to have been used for storage back in the day.

Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Shadow Wall
Me and my shadow – Y takes awesome pix of me!
Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Stooping
Get low, get low, get low, get low

There are various puddles of water to step around, and drippy ceilings to avoid.

Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Feet
Our feet stayed relatively dry throughout

At one end there was even the glimpse of sunlight from above, an air hole opening perhaps?

Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Manhole Light
Going up!

To be quite honest after all that wait, I kinda expected something a little more… impressive. The name ‘Roman Galleries’ conjures up grander imagery than a very large storm drain system, so personally you wouldn’t really be missing out if you skipped this, especially because it is a 2-3 hour affair at least, even if you went super early – we reached there about 945am and left close to 2pm! But now at least I can say I’ve had a truly local Lisbon experience :)

Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Claustrophobia
Thanks Y for the awesome photos – here she is looking panicked in one of the very small tunnels in the complex

 

Information

The Galerias Romanas are located at the junction of Rua da Prata and Rua da Conceição. They are usually only open once a year during end September, but in 2014 they were opened in April as well.

Entrance is free with a mandatory guided tour by volunteers who let you down in groups, and opening hours tend to be from late morning to afternoon, though based on my experience you have to queue in the morning to ensure entry on that day.

More on the galleries here (Portuguese) and here (English)

 

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Daylesford Dreaming – A Weekend Getaway in Daylesford and Macedon Rangeshttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/11/06/weekend-getaway-daylesford-macedon-ranges/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/11/06/weekend-getaway-daylesford-macedon-ranges/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16065 There's more to Australia than its famous cities - just a short drive from Melbourne, Daylesford makes a great weekend getaway for anyone looking to get away from the big city.

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Earlier in the year I was invited by the good folk from Daylesford and Macedon Ranges Tourism to go check out their region in the Victoria region of Australia.

But wait a minute – where on earth is Daylesford? That was the first question I asked – most people think of Australia as just Melbourne and Sydney and Perth, but don’t remember that Australia is actually quite a big place and not just made up of outback! Still, Daylesford was a place I had never heard of before, so I really was quite keen to check out what this alternative destination had to offer.

However, the thing about being an Occasional Traveller is that life often gets in the way of things, and without much leave days left, it didn’t look like I was going to be able to make this trip up (boo~~). So I decided to enlist a little bit of help from a friend who was going to be up in Melbourne that month, and asked her to take a little detour from her month-long Melbourne adventure and check out what Daylesford was like on my behalf – you might have seen some of the pix if you’re following me on instagram.

So please say hi to guest writer J, and I’ll let her tell you a little more about her awesome experience in Daylesford and how you can get up there for a quick getaway. I put all the spots in a convenient google map for you.

 


J:

So, this is long overdue. Lesson learned – it may not be a very good idea to come out of a month-long break away from home and hit the ground running the very next day. But all the same, thanks Jac for this amazing opportunity. I’m STILL dreaming of Daylesford, so here’s a throwback to my Winter Staycation in August 2014.

Daylesford was beautiful to behold – None of the shine of the modern city; just all things natural and soothing for what makes a person so at home in a place that calls itself the Well-Being Region. While the area is known for its spas and bathhouses, I think Daylesford has a lot more to offer to anyone who needs a good getaway. I could have stayed a lot longer than three days easily!

Once upon a time back in the 1800s, alluvial gold was discovered in the ground that is now Lake Daylesford resulting in a local gold rush. It’s an interesting thing to know because when I got there, there was no sign of the area having been a gold mining area at all. It’s all gardens and forests everywhere, and even in the more “industrialised” aspects – Daylesford definitely holds true to the classic Australian value of respecting and protecting the environment. A highly recommended road trip for anyone visiting Victoria, Australia!

 

GETTING THERE

In case you had no idea, Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges is an area northwest of Melbourne, still within Victoria. Here’s a map for visual reference, including some of the places of interest that I’ll be talking about below.

It’s about 1.5 hours drive by car, and you definitely want to be able to drive yourself around to really enjoy the area. Loved the journey, but I wouldn’t exactly recommend a stiff suspension vehicle unless you don’t mind the bumpiness and gravel at some parts – it is a natural area, after all.

 

PLACES TO VISIT

Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa
Visitors generally see Daylesford and Hepburn Springs as the same area, so that makes the entire area similarly known as a Spa destination. I had the privilege of visiting Hepburn Bathhouse with my travel buddy. It’s one of the many spa facilities in the area, but I’d think it’s the place to go.

Daylesford Hepburn Bathhouse Entrance
Entrance to the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa

There are several similar spa facilities set in the Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve, but this historic bathhouse one is the place to go. Just off the main Daylesford area, it is the only one that draws mineral waters directly from the Hepburn Springs so you get the best of the mineral waters, and for the history buffs, really feel what it’s like to soak in the vibes of what communal bathing must have been like back in the day.

Daylesford Hepburn Bathhouse Foliage
Surrounded by greenery

Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa opened way back in 1895 as a communal bath and was the only bathhouse in the area back then. This was about 30 years after residents in the area successfully petitioned for the mineral springs to be protected from the gold mining work (gold rush days, remember?) and thus the Springs Reserve was set up. The bathhouse compound underwent a major overhaul about 7 years ago, giving it a more modern look these days, none of that historical period look you might expect when you first enter.

Daylesford Hepburn Bathhouse Interior
modern interior after refurbishment

Cool, serene surroundings, modern – zen, if you will. The public bath actually looks like a hotel swimming pool, with a distinct light mineral scent in place of the heavy chlorine smell of swimming pools. Lots of corners for people to relax in. Obviously, I couldn’t get a decent picture with all those folks sitting in the bath, but you can find all that on their website. The waiting area is sort of a big den covered with parquet set in the ground of the first floor, and comes with such attentive service staff. All you really need to do is relax and sip some complimentary tea.

The only “work” we had to do was pick out the mineral scent we wanted for our private bath. That was a bit of a headache since I’m not a huge fan of essential oils, perfumes, aromatherapy et all – I always worry about these aromatic scents being too strong. With the help of the friendly staff, I ended up with something called Mummy Me Time (Mummy?? REALLY??) – It apparently is one of the favourites for its light scent and relaxing effect, and I highly recommend it to anyone with an aversion to strong aromatic scents.

Daylesford Hepburn Bathhouse Bath
private bath time!

The private spa we got was a surprise. It certainly kept to that old-school bathhouse look – nothing like the rest of the now-modern compound that we walked through. Honestly it didn’t look very comforting at first glance, what with all that smooth stone and the hard angles. The walls reminded me of a dungeon, albeit with a sizeable (translucent) window. Somewhat exciting, I guess.

But wow, the warm water was a different story.

With a small diffuser bag of “Mummy Me Time”, the 45-minute session was relaxing to the bone. I’m not sure if it was my imagination but I thought I could actually feel the tension seeping out of me. I have been in a hot tub before, but the mineral bath was something more despite my initial skepticism, and its relaxing effect would last for days!

Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa
Mineral Springs Crescent, Hepburn Springs VIC 3461, Australia

Spa/bathing packages can be found here, and can include accommodation as well, though you most basic package would be bathing and tea at A$32/pax.

 

WOMBAT!

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely LOVE wombats. They are such underrated creatures amidst the various Australian marsupials. They might look cute and cuddly, but are really a solid mass of muscle and power. Unfortunately they are also nocturnal, so we didn’t get to see any out in the day.

Anyway here’s a wombat. Sort of.

Daylesford Wombat Hill Wombat
Wanna see a real cute wombat? You shouldn’t miss this snuggly one here.

Fun Fact: according to wikipedia, Daylesford used to be called Wombat, that’s probably true because it is home to the Wombat State Forest, AND the Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens, among other Wombat-ty names!

Daylesford Wombat Hill Panorama
On top of Wombat Hill

You should visit Wombat Hill just because it makes for a real breath of fresh air. It’s a lovely place for a stroll – there is this creepy tower right at the top, though there isn’t much to see from the top of the tower.

Daylesford Wombat Hill Tower
The Creepy Tower
Daylesford Wombat Hill Tower Stairs
Daylesford Wombat Hill Tower Stairs

The drive around the top of the Hill is incredibly beautiful, even in the winter when I was there. In spring, the Botanical Gardens will definitely be even more of a sight!

Daylesford Wombat Hill Trees
green pathway

 

The Garden of St Erth

Daylesford St Erth House
Welcome to St Erth

This quaint cottage at The Garden of St Erth is all that is left of the little gold rush town area in the middle of the Wombat State Forest. It was built by a traveller who decided to settle in Daylesford during those days – complete with its own butchery and pig pen! Today, this cottage is the only tangible memory of that time, and the area has been transformed into a lovely organic garden by The Diggers Club.

The Diggers Club are advocates for clean growing and clean eating, providing educational tours of the gardens to show people that all sorts of edible plants can be grown right at home, no matter how much or how little space you have.

Daylesford St Erth Mustard
This is Mustard
Daylesford St Erth Turnips
rows of turnips
Daylesford St Erth Daffofils
pretty daffodils!
Daylesford St Erth Sorcerers Tree
The sorcerer’s tree is extremely rare! Apparently these purple hanging bulbs are hallucinogenic, but maybe that’s just a deterrent to stop people from plucking these pretty flowers

These gardening enthusiasts must be doing something right because the animals from the neighbouring forest like to come into the compound and help themselves to the edibles sometimes. They even have a regular wombat who visits and burrows around the plots!

In any case, this place is a must-visit for anyone who wants to try their hand at growing their own foods, something that is becoming more popular these days. The staff talked about how people sometimes underestimate the types of plants that can be grown in warm climates (like eternally-hot Singapore), but many of our much-loved fruits can actually be grown with just a balcony space.

The gardens were already beautiful when I was there in August (that’s winter down under), but they are expecting fields and fields of daffodils and other brightly coloured flowers in full bloom at year’s end  so take the weekend to check it out if you are in the Victoria region!

Daylesford St Erth Food Pasta
Yummy pasta
Daylesford St Erth Food Sausage Eggs
awesome bratwurst with homegrown veggies

The Garden of St Erth also has a family-friendly cafe with lovely al fresco seating, and you can imagine how good and fresh the air is out there. For those who are unconvinced about clean foods, they have the most amazing dishes whipped up from their very own organic produce that will probably change your mind. I’d always been a skeptic of all that hype about going organic, but these gardeners certainly put their money with their mouths are as advocates. Great full flavour from both the pasta and the vegetable-based sides accompanying that bratwurst.

The Garden of St Erth
114 Simmons Reef Road, Blackwood. VIC 3458
The Garden of St Erth is quite far out from the main Daylesford area, though – you definitely need private transport as it is about 45 minutes to an hour’s drive out from the main Daylesford area. It is an easy leisurely drive so even if you’re not a very experienced driver, you don’t have to worry much about crosswinds and stuff like that.

 

Creswick Woollen Mill

Daylesford Creswick Woolen Mills Sign
The old mills signage

My sister and I often joke that our dad loves “things that keep things warm” – this includes thermos flasks, woolly gloves, and of course, sweaters, so he would have had a ball of a time checking out the Creswick Woolen Mill.

Daylesford Creswick Woolen Mills Spinning
spinning all the fibres into yarn

They only spin the yarn at the mill, then ship the yarn elsewhere for manufacturing. What I found most fascinating was their showcase of the history of yarn, and the journey of fibres from harvest to spinning. If you’re not an avid fan of “things that keep things warm” like my dad, you probably didn’t know that there is such a variety of fibres used to make what most of us just call “wool”.

Daylesford Creswick Woolen Mills Possum
You can touch all the possum fur for yourself! There was cashmere, alpaca and merina fibres as well

Besides being quite an educational experience, the visit to the mill is quite a treat for kids and adults alike as you are able to read, see, AND touch the stuff. They also sell a lot of natural fibre toys and wearables on-site, and of course, FEED THE ALPACAS!

Daylesford Creswick Woolen Mills Alpaca
Meet my new friend Horlicks, the baby alpaca!

 

Creswick Woolen Mill
Railway Parade, Creswick VIC 3363, Australia
The Mill is one of those places that doesn’t quite have a precise address – it’s located in Railway Parade just off the Clunes Road – look for road signage to direct you there, or check at the Visitor Information Centre

There are tours daily of the Creswick Woolen Mills every hour from 11am – 2pm, tickets cost A$15 for adults

 

Sault Restaurant Daylesford

Daylesford Sault Table
Overlooking a beautiful feature lake

Dinner at Sault was the standout meal of the trip for me and my partner, an especially magical experience with the sun setting over a quiet lake.

Daylesford Sault Candle Sunset
Enjoying the sunset over dinner

It’s funny that most of the crowd came after dark and missed the sunset view – I’d definitely recommending going there about half an hour before sunset and enjoy some wine till your stomach is ready for dinner, especially if you are looking to impress your significant other. (There’s also a barn by the lake that’s popular for weddings, which you may have reason to take a look at :))

Daylesford Sault House
The new barn/chapel alongside stunning lavender fields
Daylesford Sault Dining Room
Crowded dining room!
Daylesford Sault Lounge
Grab a drink by the fireplace at the bar/lounge before dinner

Good food, good wine, great service, and an amazing view. It is a fine dining restaurant with all the trappings and multiple cutlery, but with none of the stuffiness. The wait staff were excellent, and were even able to make specific recommendations of wines to go with whatever we ordered.

Daylesford Sault Octopus Potato
STARTER: Grilled octopus, confit potato, black garlic aioli, edamame bean, smoked paprika, olive oil

The food itself was a gastronomic adventure, with unusual dishes that somehow just came together so nicely. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but i was certainly impressed by the dynamic flavours and
how good they tasted together.

Sault Restaurant Daylesford
2349 Ballan Daylesford Road, Daylesford 3460. Victoria, Australia

Mains cost around A$30-$40 on average. See website for detailed menu.

 

Hotel Frangos and Frangos

Daylesford Frangos Hotel Room 1
one of the 13 rooms in the hotel

This is a boutique hotel in the main Daylesford area. It has only 13 rooms, but is such a charming place,
with every single room and the corridor personally designed by the owners. This hotel is definitely for
those who enjoy a little flamboyance and eccentricity as the interior design has a lot of character.

Daylesford Frangos Hotel Room 2
Yes, the honeymoon suite has a mirror above the bed…

Also, a shout out to the Hotel Manager Bernard, who really went out of his way to show us around and personally see to our comfort – in keeping with the personal-touch approach the Hotel seems to be centered on.

Daylesford Frangos Jimmys Bar Fowl
Dinner at Jimmy’s Bar
Daylesford Frangos Jimmys Bar Dining Room
The dining room

There are two casual dining places at the Hotel which are popular for lunch, dinner and anything
in between. While we only had dinner at the one called Jimmy’s Bar – which has brilliant food and great local beers, it should also be noted that Cafe Koukla just across the hallway boasts Daylesford’s only
wood-fired pizza place!

Hotel Frangos and Frangos
82 Vincent St, Daylesford VIC 3460

 

This short road trip to Daylesford was courtesy of the folk from Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges Regional Tourism Board. Follow them on facebook or twitter @wellbeingregion. Photos, text and opinions thanks to guest writer J on behalf of The Occasional Traveller.

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Why Singapore is the top country to visit in 2015 (and my BBC cameo!)http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/10/30/singapore-top-country-visit-2015/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/10/30/singapore-top-country-visit-2015/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16033 Lonely Planet named Singapore as the top country to visit in 2015 - I was invited onto BBC to share my thoughts and here's an extended version of it!

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Many of you might have seen this list by now – the Lonely Planet Best Country to Visit in 2015 list, which puts Singapore right on top as THE country to visit in 2015. I had seen the list for best city in my feed, but imagine my surprise when I get an email from the BBC asking me to comment on live TV about my thoughts on why Singapore made the top of the list and how it compared to the other countries.

That was one exciting day, and 3 minutes of my life that went by in a blur. I actually overslept my initial appearance at 6am (I had to take up at 5am but I only woke up at 555am and I have NEVER not heard my phone alarm go off! *%#*&) but luckily they managed to reschedule my slot, so I still manage to make the show, but man that was precarious!

BBC Newsday 23 Oct 2014
That’s me! And Singapore represent – I’m wearing Hansel‘s HDB series in subtle support of Singapore and local design! Video at the bottom of the post

You can watch the clip at the bottom of the post to see how the interview turned out! Thanks everyone who has been really encouraging and keen to see it, though I must warn you first not to set your expectations too high…

I can’t help but be somewhat embarrassed about how unfocused I sound – I did spend a fair amount of time the night before prepping for it and had (what I thought at least) were some pretty decent points, but when I was on air and the questions were coming at me, I think everything pretty much flew out the window and I ended up looking more startled than anything else. But oh well, first time for everything~

BBC Newsday The Occasional Traveller
Selfie with Rico Hizon in the studio in between his segments. Man he was a busy guy with a producer constantly in his ear, but still gracious enough to help me get through this and even take a selfie with me!

Well which is why I ended up blogging and (obviously) not becoming a TV personality. I’m not good at off-the-cuff answers or even looking natural on screen (it’s like my facial muscles don’t respond naturally~ this is why I can’t watch myself I get hyper-critical) – I like taking my time to think about stuff, and my blogposts usually go through at least one round of editing before they get posted. The hyperfast nownownow pace of the newsroom is not for me!

But more importantly, other than being great for my portfolio, this was a pretty interesting exercise in thinking about Singapore – because it still is a little bewildering to me why we would make the top of the list out of all the countries in the world, even after reading the Lonely Planet article explaining why several times. But here’s what I really think about Singapore topping the list and why you should visit us in 2015.

 

THAT MILESTONE YEAR – SG50

Singapore
Still my favourite dramatic shot of the Singapore flag

A large part of what probably propelled Singapore to the top of the LP list is that 2015 is a milestone year for us – our 50th year of independence aka SG50. But why is 50 years important anyway? By country standards, that’s a really short time – many other countries have hundreds, even thousands of years of history behind them.

Personally, I think 50 is significant to Singapore  because we have done some amazing things to get to where we are today so quickly, and maybe as a Singaporean this sort of efficiency and progress is something we’ve come to expect, but truly, it’s nothing to sniff at. A lot has happened these past 50 years, some of it good, some of it less so, and I think as a nation we need to start becoming more introspective and more reflective of our actions, rather than just going with what is dictated to us by the government which is how things have tended to be. The great thing is being able to see that happen now, and it’s starting to throw up some quite interesting debates which would never have made the light of day in previous decades.

But more importantly for visitors to Singapore who don’t really give a hoot whether we’re 50 or 500, the government has decided to make SG50 the galvanizing call to rally Singaporeans to celebrate being Singaporean, so it’s going to be an entire year of celebrations throughout the country which obviously means that you’ll probably be in for a treat if you time your visit right!

 

SINGAPORE IS SURPRISING

iLight Marina Bay - Singapore Skyline
Stunning sunsets when you least expect it

Asking people what they thought about Singapore was quite an interesting experience – I posed the question to a bunch of non-Singaporean travel bloggers on Facebook before my interview just to get a sense of what people thought about my country and got quite the variety of responses.

The answers weren’t unexpected: a nice enough city, great food, small, super clean, efficient; or in less favourable views, boring, dull, not much to see here, regimented.

I’m a travel blogger and really I spend most of my waking time dreaming about getting out of here and exploring new places in other countries, so it might seem odd that I am advocating for others to visit a place I’m seemingly always trying to escape. But I’ve lived here all my life, and 30 years later, whether it’s because of rapid change or my inherent laziness, there are still corners of Singapore left to explore and experiences to be had.

Singapore does have a rather unique culture, an odd mix of traditions, stories and histories borrowed from its neighbours that has slowly evolved into a truly Singaporeaness over time. Some people say we don’t have an identity, but how else can you explain being able to identify a Singaporean anywhere in the world just from the way they speak Singlish, an accented English and vocabulary spanning several Asian dialects? Or crave Hainanese Chicken Rice when you’re away because Singapore, not even Hainan, is the only place that does it right? I am proud to say that I am Singaporean.

So give this little country a chance – or a second chance if you found yourself turned off for some reason the first time around. If anyone wants someone local to bring them around Singapore, drop me a note and I’ll be quite happy to take you around if I can, and hopefully give you a better impression of Singapore to take home with you :)

 

 MANY MORE MILES TO GO

Singapore Seas
I love the feeling of coming home – you know Singapore’s waters by the sheer number of ships in it

Of course Singapore is not perfect, though I do like that we try to be top of every list there is. One of the other questions posed to me was what I thought Singapore had to do keep its position on top of the list.

My hope for Singapore is that as a country that prides itself on being multicultural and embracing diversity, we need to truly embrace what it means to be a melting pot of cultures in an era of rapid globalization and find a way to integrate that into a part of the Singaporean DNA. Right now we have a rather fixed (and limited) definition of multicultural in Singapore, basically the 4 official races (Chinese, Malay, Indian, Others) and sadly in recent years it feels like Singapore has become a lot more xenophobic and unwelcoming towards foreigners, despite the fact that most of us are descended from immigrants ourselves. I think sometimes we can be quite casually racist even as we preach multiculturalism, and I probably don’t feel it as much since the Chinese are a dominant group here in Singapore, but I’m guilty of stereotyping as well though I try to be a bit more aware nowadays. When we can be accepting of our neighbours no matter where they are from or what their roots are, that’s the day that Singapore will have succeeded as a truly multicultural country and will be a place that people will want to visit, whether it’s on a list or not.

 

So there we go, some of my thoughts in the 18 hours of prep time that I had for this interview! I hope this is a better reflection of the babble that came out of my mouth on screen…

I’d love to hear what you guys thought of the Lonely Planet list, and whether you think Singapore is worthy of its top position. I’m still not sure it should be on top, but I definitely still think people should come visit Singapore just to decide for themselves whether the stereotypes are really true!

And now my patient readers (or those who just tl;dr and scrolled right down, here’s my video interview where you can watch me blabber on screen:

Thanks to BBC World News for the video clip

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Wallpaper Wanderer: The Beaches of Byron Bayhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/10/27/wallpaper-wanderer-beaches-byron-bay/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/10/27/wallpaper-wanderer-beaches-byron-bay/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15991 NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA - Oksana of Drink Tea and Travel shows us the beautiful beaches she gets away to on the weekends

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It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Wallpaper Wanderer entry eh? The last one was by Zewl Pink from his trip to Paris, and now we have another inspiring entry from Oksana Simakina from Drink Tea and Travel – she was born in Ukraine but has since lived practically all around the world from Canada to China, and now she shares with us a photo from one of her favourite places near her current base in Brisbane, Australia:

Oksana Simakina:

Wallpaper Wanderer - Byron Bay Oksana
Look at those lovely colours!

Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

This is the main beach in Byron Bay, a small coastal town in New South Wales, in Australia. Located just 2 hours away from Brisbane, Byron Bay has a it’s one of my favourite places to get away to for a weekend. The laid back atmosphere with hippy vibes, great night life, and beautiful natural settings have drawn me here more than once!

 

 

I’ve been to various parts of Australia including Brisbane, but we didn’t have a lot of time there and I’ve never been to Byron Bay. This lovely beach picture is making me want to take a beach holiday soon…

 

Do you have something that inspires you to travel?

What do you put on your wallpaper or just look at to inspire yourself to travel? It could be a fabulous quote, inspirational people, picturesque scenery, or even a quirky picture on your fridge… Wallpaper Wanderer is here to make you wanderlust! Send in your picture and a short blurb telling me why it inspires you to travel, either through email to theoccasionaltraveller [at] gmail [dot] com, through the facebook app here or at the Contact page. I’ll pick my favourite ones and feature them here and on Facebook!

Missed the past Wallpaper Wanderers? Check them out here.

 

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An OPPOrtunity to Travel with the OPPO N1 Minihttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/10/23/oppo-n1-mini-review/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/10/23/oppo-n1-mini-review/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15936 Road-testing the OPPO N1 Mini for travellers on my latest trip to Portugal and whether its camera phone and functions are good enough to replace your point and shoot digicam.

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I’d like to make a confession: Sometimes I think I make a shitty travel blogger.

I sometimes feel a little bad that I don’t take nicer photographs for you on my blog which is supposed to inspire you to travel more. The truth is I really don’t like carrying around bulky professional cameras with me, despite the fact that I know they’d produce much more beautiful and travel inspiring photos. I actually rely very much on my trusty iphone to capture the moments because I find it less obtrusive to most people, less of a hindrance to my own travel experience, and these days the quality of camera phones are good enough for me and my memories.

Portugal - Oppo Phone
Checking out the phone on the way up to Portugal! Love the pretty mint-green colour. It’s larger than I’m used to with the iPhone 5s, but it’s quite light at 150gm, and slim enough to slip into my bag. Perhaps a little too slim without a cover because I was a bit afraid to drop it~ there’s a thin metal ring around the camera which was how I mounted my phone lenses

So it was probably going to be the same for this trip to Portugal, but the kind folk from Oppo Singapore reached out to me and loaned me a rather pretty mint-green Oppo N1-mini to see how good this phone could be for the traveller. I’ll have to say, as someone who’s been using the Apple iPhone since I started using smart phones (before that? Loyal Nokia user to the core, love you classic 8210 & 8250), I had my reservations about using an Android phone – Oppo phones run a system called Colours, which is a version of the Android OS.

Portugal - Oppo Selfie Journalling
While transiting at Schiphol – it’s a selfie of a selfie? Meanwhile Y is being all old-school and doing some actual journalling.

And also, you might have noticed that I invested in some smart phone camera lenses by Photojojo to see if that would help me get better photos. The lenses attach to the phone via magnets – you stick a little metal ring around the camera which is really easy to remove. I carried around a wide-angle lens (with macro function),  a fish-eye lens and a polarizer (which I don’t use very much). Mostly you’ll see the wide-angle being deployed, especially for the building, interior and street art shots.

Photojojo Phone Lenses
The old system involved a silver metal ring around the camera (see top photo) – for the iphone they’ve developed white/black metal plates that stick on to the back which is much less obtrusive! The ring system works well for most phones though – Photo via Photojojo

 

SWIVELLY SELFIES GALORE

Portugal - Oppo Phone Swivel Head
See that top portion? that flips around to face front or back or any other angle in between.

The most outstanding feature of the Oppo N1-mini phone that got the most attention was the swivelling camera head. Instead of the usual system where a high res camera is set on the back and a lower-res camera faces the front, the Oppo N1 Mini has just one 13 Megapixel camera with flash that is installed on a head that can rotate up to 195 degrees, so whether it’s a normal photo or a selfie, you’re always ensured a high resolution shot.

Portugal - Oppo N1-mini Selfie Lisbon
See the Oppo? Taking a selfie as I pass under the bridge of Lisbon on the way towards Porto.

I liked that swivelling the head towards you automatically toggles the camera without having to switch it on. Otherwise, drawing a circle on the screen toggles this off-screen gesture that brings up the camera!

Portugal - Oppo Selfie Lagos
More evidence of selfie taking against the picturesque coast of Lagos

Also, having the flash in your selfies – I didn’t realize this was necessary until I was trying to take a backlit sunset selfie with my iphone and realize I couldn’t use the flash because it was only installed on the back, doh~

Portugal - Cabo Da Roca Grass Selfie
Ok this is probably not the best example of the flash because I forgot to turn off the Fill Light feature – it’s like a less harsh flash – but this selfie with Y photobombing me always cracks me up. I used the wide angle lens to get a bit more background in

 

The swivelly head doesn’t stop at your standard photography and selfies. It was pretty helpful in taking rooftop and ceiling shots as well as I could adjust the camera to various angles, which made it possible to use the screen to focus the shot, especially helpful when it came to areas where we couldn’t enter. Being able to stick your hand through the grills and take a shot of beautiful roofs was really useful.

Portugal - Sintra Pena Palace Church
Sticking my hand past the barricades to get this in the corner of the room. As with most cameras, you need a steadier hand when it comes to low light shots
Portugal - Sintra Pena Palace Chandelier Fish Eye
Attaching the fish eye onto the phone and shooting upwards. Being able to tilt the camera meant that I could adjust the position more easily
Portugal - Sintra Pena Palace Selfie
A combination of the wide angle lens and tilting the swivelly head got this great framing in Sintra!
Portugal - Sintra Pena Palace Mirror Selfie
Sneaking in a selfie while walking around the palace
Portugal - Porto Lello Roof
Snuck this quick shot of the Lello Bookshop in Porto while we were being hustled out the door!

 

MY LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH BEING BEAUTIFIED

As a selfie camera created by an Asian brand, naturally the default mode for pictures is something they call the Beautify Mode. In short, what it does is automatically makes your skin look super smooth in photos, as well as enlarge your eyes, mostly by making your pupils larger and rounder (Like those contact lenses).

Behold:

Portugal - Oppo Beauty Mode Comparison
A rainy afternoon in Coimbra. The shot on the left is in normal mode, while the one of the right is in beautify mode. Check out the skin and the eyes especially! I love looking like I had glowing skin.

Now in theory, that’s something quite awesome. I will admit to photoshopping away some of the zits and other blemishes in my photos occasionally, especially if I was having a bad skin day on my travels because that’s not something I want to remember, nor distract you from the wonders of travel with my spottiness. But if you’re not used to it, you might feel a little bit weirded out by your suddenly beautfied portraits.

And also, while Beautify mode should help Asians who generally have smaller eyes enlarge their peepers, it often makes me look like an alien instead because it made my eyes look like they didn’t have whites at all. For now the default mode is in Beautify mode, not sure if you could toggle it not to be so you don’t have to switch it off every time.

Portugal - Oppo Beauty Mode Eyes
Do my eyes not look a little freaky to you? I swear I normally don’t look so… eager

 

And just so you can see for yourself how the camera did overall, here’s a selection of various shots from my trip taken by the Oppo N1-Mini.

Portugal - Porto Clerigos Torre View Far
Far Focus in Porto on top of the Clerigos Tower
Portugal - Porto Clerigos Torre View near
A Near Focus shot in the same spot
Portugal - Lisbon LXfactory Beer
I kinda like how the depth of field turned out here while chilling out at the LX Factory in Lisbon

 

Portugal - Sintra Moorish Castle Window
The highest point of the Moorish Castle of Sintra in the distance – we would eventually climb up there!
Portugal - Lisbon Flower Macro
Macro mode did a pretty decent job on tiny flowers
Portugal - Lisbon Azulejos Museum Panorama
Panorama of a panorama – this super long set of Azulejos tiles in the Azulejos museum of Lisbon shows the city as drawn a long, long time ago

Some of the other camera functions that I didn’t use but could be quite useful for other people – I’m really a very basic point and shooter, but some of these sounded quite interesting:

Slow Shutter Mode

With a 32-second long exposure, you can capture scenes with alternating light exposure creates for unique photo effects. Or get some awesome light trails.
Audio Photo
Record audio on your photo – probably the closest you can get to adding a soundtrack to your life!
 
GIF Photo
Record GIF animations – this definitely takes away the hassle of trying to string it together in photoshop or an app! I definitely regret not trying this.
 
Ultra-HD
They have something called Pure Image 2.0 technology that picks out the best parts of six consecutive images and combine them into a 24megapixel HD picture. Considering I usually have to resize my photos, not particularly useful for me, but if you’re looking to blow up your shots, this would definitely be helpful.
 
Slow Motion Video
Because nothing is more dramatic than slooooowing it down.

 

Besides photography, I did use the Oppo N1-Mini quite extensively for some of its other functions to help me travel.

WIFI/DATA

Compared to my iPhone, the Android system definitely is more sensitive in detecting wifi spots – I don’t know if my iPhone is being wonky, but quite often, I wouldn’t be able to detect any wifi signal while the Oppo had a strong connection, which is something I’d also notice previously when reviewing the Google Nexus. Then again, it could be an issue of my casing because Y uses an iPhone and she didn’t have those problems…

Also, unfortunately I wasn’t able to get the wifi dongle that I usually have on trips, so I ended up getting a SIM card instead for this trip at 15 Euros for 1GB from Vodafone at the Lisbon airport – that lasted me for about 12 days, perhaps if I had been a little more judicious in using it I could have made it last! I like the handy drop down menu that made it easy to toggle wifi/data on and off without having to always go into the settings – iPhones do have this setting but it’s less extensive than the Android system.

 

MAPS

Google Maps was quite the lifesaver in helping me stay un-lost. I liked that even when my SIM card ran out of data, I could still use the GPS to at least locate myself. Of course this isn’t unique to Google Maps – Apple Maps has this function as well, but what was really useful about the Google Maps app is that the little blue dot signalling where you are has a compass/arrow to it which the Apple maps lacks. It’s a really small but functional thing.

I nearly forgot to get off my train when I reached Coimbra – only by checking my GPS did I realize I was actually at the right stop! Never have I moved so fast to get off a train… The Portuguese really aren’t very good with signage!

 

Some other cool features:

Off-Screen gestures
The phone detects gestures and swipes on the screen even when the screen is off, which makes it great for those who want a more hands free experience.
 

Privacy

Besides App encryption where you can password protect various apps, you can even set a guest mode/password that restricts contacts, photos and apps from other people who might want to use your phone! 

Of course as a long time iphone user, there were a bunch of things that I really couldn’t get used to – I wish that the main power button wasn’t on the top left hand side. Perhaps I’m too used to the iphone’s buttons (the power button is on top), but I kept locking/turning off my phone by accident because I kept hitting/holding that button, which meant having to unlock or restart the phone at several junctures.

The large screen took some getting use to, but it was nice looking at photos on the OPPO after you’re used to a small iPhone screen – Instagramming is always a joy on a larger screen. However the Swype keyboard also drove me crazy at points, as it really alters the way that you type on your phone. I can see how it could make typing faster and easier, but I hate the way it auto-corrects words and I often don’t notice it until after my posts go up, which is especially annoying on Instagram where you can’t make edits after posting. But I guess this is more a matter of getting used to it…

WHERE TO GET OPPO

OPPO N1 Mini

The OPPO N1 Mini is retailing at SGD549 in Singapore and available at all authorized OPPO retailers, including Singtel and M1 shops. They just opened a flagship concept store at Suntec Tower 3 #01-627/630.

The OPPO N1 Mini is available in white and cool mint-blue (erm, it’s really mint green to me but well semantics), and there’s quite an unusual and pretty limited edition lemon yellow colour that will only be available on Lazada Singapore or at their concept store.

For more information, visit the OPPO Singapore website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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Stumbling upon Street Art in Lagos, Portugalhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/10/20/street-art-lagos-portugal-guide/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/10/20/street-art-lagos-portugal-guide/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15947 More than sun, sand and surfing - check out the thriving street art in Lagos, Portugal with this detailed guide on who and what you can see in the streets of Lagos

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When I decided to pop down to Lagos in Portugal, I wasn’t really thinking of going there for any specific purpose. In fact, it was a pretty random decision influenced somewhat by the fact that I just wanted to go somewhere beachy in the Algarve, Julika’s rather intriguing post about how she loved Lagos, and that it was an easy direct bus ride away from Lisbon (4 hours by EVA bus).

(which are good enough reasons, really. I’ve decided to go to places based on nothing more than a ‘feeling’ or liking the name of the place)

Mostly, I figured a beach town would mostly be a nice way to chill out from the buzz of busy Lisbon city. So as we were walking (uphill, as you do in Portugal) to find the cliff-top coastal walk, imagine my surprise when I chance upon this beauty of a piece out of nowhere:

Portugal - Lagos Street Art Roa Flamingo
At the junction of Avenida dos Descombrimentos and Rua Bombeiros Voluntarios Da Lagos – It’s right opposite a fire station, and if you’re walking towards the cliff walks area from the old town, you’re quite likely to pass this awesome piece of artwork

And I KNEW it was a Roa piece immediately when I saw it. The style (which I first saw in London – how cool is it that some of my first street art encounters in London and Lagos are both Roa!) is pretty distinct – the sketchy monochrome animals… but could it really be? I did a little bit of a Google search that night and found out that Lagos, while better known as a party beach town or hangout for older British tourists, actually has a thriving street art scene! A lot of it is due to the good folk of LAC, which stands for Laboratório de Actividades Criativas and they run a yearly residency programme called ARTURb, (short for Artistas Unidos Em Residência or United Artists in Residence) which invites a small international group of street artists to come together in Lagos to create and exhibit their works – I visited the exhibition, more on that at the bottom of this post.

But if you’re in Lagos and taking a break from the beach, I highly recommend you take a walk around the city and look out for the artworks these artists have left behind, a more permanent legacy of their time here. Very cool stuff indeed – it’s a nice way to explore the city, though prepare to do a fair bit of walking. Cycling might not be a bad idea as well so you cover more ground more quickly.

These are my pix and a little more detail on where to find these works – they’re mostly found in clusters which I’ve grouped for you by location, so you can see bunches of works by area if you’d rather not do too much walking at once. Also included is the very useful and detailed map by the LAC folk for those using google maps to point themselves in the right direction.

 

RUA LANCAROTE DE FREITAS

You’re right in the centre of the old town area. Most probably you’ll spot the giant fish work which is close to the town centre, and once you do, just follow the road straight up from there to check out the other works.

Portugal - Lagos Street Art BEZT
Meeting the God by Bezt (2013), a Polish street artist who’s half of a crew called Etam Cru. The alley was pretty narrow here so this is the best shot that I managed. StreetArtNews.net has an awesome shot though, as well as a really cute animated gif which shows that the fish wasn’t always a fish!
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Addfuel-Samina
A collaboration by Portuguese street artists Add Fuel and SAMINA (2013) – the work in progress shots are pretty cool. I love how it kinda mimics the Azulejos (typical Portuguese tiles found on walls).
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Mar
MAR (2012) is another Portuguese street artist – Just above the Add Fuel and SAMINA work, here’s a close up. I saw his works in Lisbon as well, the swirls and eyes are pretty distinct looking!
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Roa Snails
If you’re thinking this looks similar in style to the dead flamingo, you are spot on. It’s the 2nd Roa piece of 2 mating snails painted in 2013! I kinda like the garden setting of the snails.
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Onur-Wes21
HUNT by Wes21 and Onur, street artists from Switzerland. It’s a fun piece with an odd menagerie of hunting animals and the odd cursor and facebook like button. Some behind the scenes shots from Onur here

 

RUA DE ATALAIA / RUA INFANTE DE SAGRES

Just about 5 minutes walk away from Rua Lancarote da Freita above, you’ll see a mix of older and brand new works around here. Funny story is that these were some of the first works that we saw that day. The LAC map wasn’t updated with the 2014 works when we were walking around, so we only saw the 2014 works by Borondo and Sepe at Rua Infante de Sagres after we’d spent an entire afternoon walking, and then found ourselves back at where we started! Funny how we could have seen those works earlier if we’d only walked about 50m more down the road!

Portugal - Lagos Street Art C215 yellow couple
C215 is a French street artist who does a lot of portraits but also likes to use stencils, hence getting called the ‘French Banksy’ by lots of people. I like the way he uses colour to complement his portraits. He has a bunch of works in Lagos from 2012, mostly on the electrical boxes, so you really have to look out for them because they’re quite small compared to all the others! I thought at first the quote was part of his work, but it looks like just another happy mash-up. This is actually located near Rua Marreiros Netta, just off Rua de Atalaia
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Pantonio
On Rua de Atalaia, you’ll probably see this work by Pantonio and Sainer first from 2012. Pantonio is a Portuguese street artist who does these awesome black & blue illustrations – his works have also appeared in Lisbon and Porto!
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Sainer
Sainer is a Polish street artist, the other half of Etam Cru with Bezt, just that his piece was painted in 2012. This frog face is just a little bit creepy.
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Borondo
Walk further up the Rua Infante de Sagres where you’ll come to a junction near the old fort walls of Lagos, and you should spot this huge piece by Spanish street artist Borondo (2014) there. It was a very new piece when we were there, perhaps just a few weeks old, so really cool to be some of the first people to see it :)
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Sepe
What Goes Around Comes Around by Sepe (2014) from Poland is a massive piece just around the corner. The detail is quite amazing – definitely a piece you need to see up close to appreciate.
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Selfie
Jubilation at seeing most of the works on the map! This was the last piece we saw before we bought some beers and headed to the beach to rest our aching feet

 

RUA DOM VASCO DE GAMA / LAC BUILDING

If you’re walking towards the bus station or near the Marina or train station, there are a bunch of older, smaller works that you can find here. You can also take this opportunity to visit the LAC Building at Rua Convento Senora da Gloria – be warned that it’s up a slope, so be prepared for a little climbing!

Portugal - Lagos Street Art street sign snail
I don’t know who did this, but it kinda cracks me up. At the bridge leading to the Marina area
Portugal - Lagos Street Art C215 rainbow girl
More on C215’s work – this one at the junction of Avenida dos Descombrimentos and Rua da Capelinha – look for the electrical box!
Portugal - Lagos Street Art C215 rainbow couple
At the junction of Rua Antonio Crisogno dos Santos and Rua Nova de Aldeia, just before a slopey area. You’re likely to pass this if you’re headed up to LAC
Portugal - Lagos Street Art C215 blue couple
This artwork also by C215 is in the same alleyway as the one above, on an electrical box just opposite
Portugal - Lagos Street Art C215 old lady
The largest C215 work can be found on the wall bordering the LAC building at Rua Convento Senora da Gloria
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Borondo face tree
Borondo has another unusual work in a little spot just around the corner from and opposite the LAC building. I like the position of the tree and how the face just takes shape in the roots and wall

 

 

AVENIDA DES DESCOMBRIMENTOS

This long road stretches from the Marina all the way down to the cliffs, so you’re likely to see some of these works as you enter the city or walk along the river. I particularly love the Aryz work which was done in April 2014 and is super majestic. The other works near the circus came from the inaugural batch of artists here in 2011, so they might be looking a little worse for wear, but definitely cool to see they’ve lasted so long!

Portugal - Lagos Street Art Aryz 2
Tempus Fugit by Spanish street artist Aryz (2014) – This massive piece along Avenida dos Descombrimentos opposite the Marina area is hard to miss if you’re walking away from the old city. Something about his colour palette is very appealing, like the drowning horse in the Lisbon artwork. This faces a carpark and is just super impressive to behold.
Portugal - Lagos Street Art maismenos-perreira
The key man looking thing on the left is by Jorge Perreira and the rather dilapidated looking I Have a Dream is by maismenos who does a lot of typographical/quote based works. Both are Portuguese artists
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Paulo Arriano
This very detailed swirly piece by Portuguese street artist Paulo Arraiano (2011) – this was one of the pieces that caught my eye as we came in on the bus ride
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Bokel-Perreira-Arriano
A combination of works by Jorge Perreira, Paulo Arraiano and Brazilian artist Antonio Bokel
Portugal - Lagos Street Art bokel-perreira 2
More of Bokel and Perreira

 

Map by LAC


Ver ARTURb – Artistas Unidos em Residência num mapa maior

Check out their little building at Rua Convento Senora da Gloria, which used to be a prison back in the day, and these days is an ever-evolving gallery of these artists works, past and present. The current batch of artists in 2014 include Borondo (Spain), Sepe (Poland), Mario Belem (Portugal), Dome (Germany) and Pipsqueak (Netherlands) and they had a pretty awesome exhibition showing when we were there. Check out their Facebook page for more details and updates on new works popping up around Lagos.

Portugal - Lagos Street Art Borondo stairwell
A work by Borondo called Corrupt, the floor is a red carpet that extends to the entrance. Pretty cool idea
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Borondo smoke ceiling
Borondo also use the smoke from a candle to create this design on the roof of the ceiling!
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Dome Pleasure and Suffering
These black and gold pieces by German artist Dome are very eye catching and have very distinct style!
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Pipsqueak Face
Pipsqueak aka Pipsqueak was here is a rather irreverent artist who had a lot of his works plastered throughout the buildling. This one makes use of the slats and covers the whole corridor. My wide angle lens was not wide enough to capture the entire drawing which included the hands and feet!
Portugal - Lagos Street Art Borondo Fire Yanz
More Borondo and experimentations with fire – that’s Y trying to get a video of the fire burning around here head
Portugal - Lagos Street Art LAC taxi driver
This mural was a collaboration between Pipsqueak and Mario Belem
Portugal - Lagos Street Art LAC corridor blur
More Pipsqueak!
Portugal - Lagos Street Art LAC backyard
Lots of artworks in the courtyard outside, with some Pipsqueak to the right, and in the bushes…
Portugal - Lagos Street Art LAC backyard raccoons
Villains under the Fig Tree by Pipsqueak – such a fun surprise to peek under the tree and see these little raccoons there!
Portugal - Lagos Street Art LAC courtyard
An inner courtyard covered with more works

Looking for more street art? Check out my other street art related guides:

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2 Weeks in Portugal – a Post-Trip Recaphttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/10/13/2-weeks-in-portugal-a-post-trip-recap/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/10/13/2-weeks-in-portugal-a-post-trip-recap/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 04:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15913 Fresh from 2 weeks in Portugal, a quick recap of my amazing semi-solo trip in early October visiting Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve.

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Portugal - Journal Sketch
Front page of my journal!

Olá! I’m back from 2 weeks in Portugal, my annual solo trip for this year… Well semi-solo this time around, since the first half of it was spent with dear Y in Lisbon and Lagos before she took off for Spain and I hung around in Portugal. It’s gonna be super busy in the upcoming weeks getting all the posts together, so here’s a bit of a pictoral round up just to give you a bit of a teaser of my entire trip.

Portugal - Sintra Pena Palace Selfie
Selfie with Y at the Pena Palace – love the lego yellow happening here

Portugal is a pretty amazing country to visit. I didn’t know very much about it going in, other than that it was next to Spain and I was probably gonna see a lot of castles and churches there, but it surprised me with its various other facets – from the amazing street art not just in Lisbon, but in almost all the cities I visited!

Portugal - Lagos Street Art Aryz
mural done earlier in the year by Aryz found near the Lagos bus station

The widespread use and sheer variety of Azulejos, the decorative tiles introduced by the Moorish back in the day embraced and adapted to Portuguese style also kept me quite busy taking pix throughout the trip.

Portugal - Azulejos Tavira
This collection of tiles comes from Tavira

and of course to the great hearty food that’s generally cheap and filled me right up to the brim. It was mostly pork and seafood, and I’m heartily sick of ham and cheese at this point.

Portugal - Lagos Casinha Catalana
Cataplana for 2 is like feeding an entire Asian family! A soup stew with clams, pork and prawns, it was absolutely amazing.

And the walking, all that walking and the endless hills to climb – Portugal apparently is known for producing good quality shoes, and it’s no wonder given the extremely hilly terrain they have to deal with! I bought myself a cute pair of cork booties as a nice souvenir of the city, so we’ll see whether that is true in the long run.

Lisbon was where I started and ended my trip, and some highlights include listening and learning about Fado, trying the authentic Portuguese egg tarts called Pasteis de Belem;

Portugal - Lisbon Pasteis de Belem
Only called Pasteis de Belem in this store, it’s known as Pasteis de Nata everywhere else in Portugal

 

as well as queuing 4 hours to visit the Galerias Romanas, something even the locals don’t always have the chance to do!

Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Manhole
Where does the hole lead to? Stay tuned to find out more!

A day trip out to nearby Sintra to check out the medieval ruins ended up in an unexpected detour to Cabo da Roca, the quite stunning western-most point of Europe.

Portugal - Cabo da Roca Pano
The western most point of Europe at Cabo da Roca

The weather in the Algarve was very lovely and appropriately warm and sunny, and we enjoyed both the coastal cliff beaches of Lagos and the beautiful flat sandy beach in Tavira. Again, unexpected encounters with street art in Lagos ended up in a really tiring but enjoyable art discovery of the little beach town, while the quiet little town of Tavira was a great midpoint break and a nice way to start off the solo half of my trip.

Portugal - Tavira Beach Feet
Chilling out one afternoon at Tavira Island’s stunning beach

After that I headed all the way up North to Porto, which is a stunning city right from the get-go, as you enter the city via train and the valley comes into view. Even the train station is a work of art in itself!

Portugal - Porto Douro River
Porto along the Douro river, taken from the Gaia river side

Naturally I had a lot of Port and probably ate my weight in meat, spent a lot of time by the Douro river and while it rained down on me during several bits of the trip, I still had a great experience overall.

Portugal - Porto Port Wine
Port wine tasting on the rooftop of Porto Cruz

A day trip out to the medieval town of Guimaraes was a nice change of pace from the wine, if perhaps not the most exciting.

Portugal - Guimaraes Castle
It’s a small cute quiet town, definitely a different vibe from busy Porto

A quick 1-night stop in the university town of Coimbra on the way back to Lisbon was definitely worthwhile even if it rained on me half the time as well, with one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve ever seen,

Portugal - Coimbra Santa Clara a Velha Path
Portugal – Coimbra Santa Clara a Velha Path

And of course no trip is special without the sheer variety of random friends and acquaintances you make on it, however fleeting they may be. Dutch mum and balcony neighbour Vivian had a nice leisurely exploration of Tavira together, while Puerto-Rican native Lui from New York became a familiar face who made the various walking tours more fun. Aussie-Polish couple Sean and Joanna whom I ran into twice quite serendipitously in Porto were really cool folk I’d love to get to know better and even the various older folk (mostly Canadian or German) that I got to know at various junctures definitely made the travel more fun, whether it was sharing some really strong alcohol in Coimbra, or just waiting in the long queues for the bus in Sintra.

Big shout out to Bloghouse buddy Julika from Sateless Suitcase who gave some really great tips on Portugal. And thanks to the folk from Oppo Singapore who loaned me a Oppo N1-Mini phone to test on the trip – the majority of the photos you’ll see are from this phone, which has a flippy camera that makes taking selfies easier. This trip was the first time I tried booking AirBnB accommodations as well which resulted in some pretty cool stays.

Portugal - Oppo Phone
Portugal – Oppo Phone

Obrigado Portugal for an excellent trip! Now, where to begin blogging about it? Besides the usual fare like accommodation reviews and city guides, you’re also likely to see a bunch of street art guides as well, and I think I’ll need an entire post just to dedicate to my obsession with Azulejos too…

It’s gonna be a busy time ahead, stay tuned!

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