The Occasional Traveller http://theoccasionaltraveller.com Occasionally Travelling, Always Inspiring Thu, 30 Oct 2014 19:04:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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

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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 Galeria Romanis, 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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When Life Keeps You Down – How To Travel Without Leaving Homehttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/29/life-keeps-travel-without-leaving-home/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/29/life-keeps-travel-without-leaving-home/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15735 When you're home bound due to work or life, how do you feed the wanderlust and experience the joy of travel? Here's how you can travel without leaving home.

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 Travel at Home - Globe
Wanderlust by Send Me Adrift via Flickr CC

So it’s September now – the last trip that I made this year was back in end July when I popped up to Bangkok on a FAM Trip over the long weekend. In the grand scheme of things, it was just 2 months ago which is not a very long lull period for most people; with less than 3 weeks of vacation time, you’re bound to have long periods of downtime in between travels. But still, I love travel and I’ve had an insanely busy month of work, so all I want to do right now is pack my bags and go somewhere nice.

But if work and commitments keep you from taking your next vacation overseas, there’s no need to let frustration take over! With globalization and a shrinking world, it’s become much easier for you  to experience the joys of travel without breaking out your passport.

Here are some things I try to do in between trips, when I’m starting to feel a little antsy about not being somewhere overseas, various ways to curb (or alternately feed) my wanderlust:

 

Seek out the foreign at home

Travel at Home - Spain Pomegranate
Take home a little bit of international flavour from the market for a change – photo by nivekhmng via Flickr CC

I’m quite lucky to be based in Singapore, a multi-cultural country and a popular business hub with a world-class airport – we’ve welcomed the world with open arms, and you can feel it in the growing diversity of languages on the street, the exotic food selection available and the people you encounter in everyday life.

So do something a little fun – Pick a place that you really want to visit and research it like you’re actually going there. After that, try finding equivalents of these places and things to do right in your home town. With the internet, this has become extremely easy to do, and unless you live in a really remote gated community, globalization should have touched your country in some way and you should be able to find traces of other countries in your home town.

There are lots of different ways you could do this, so pick something that appeals to your own interests. Some suggestions to kickstart your brain:

  • Pick up a new language – you’ll learn a little about the culture and country while you’re at it
  • Browse the international sections in the library or find an author from that country to check out
  • Find a restaurant that serves that country’s food and have your dinner there instead of your usual haunts
  • Look for international culture festivals – that’s usually a great way to get started
  • Couchsurf to look for expat communities or visiting travellers coming to your hometown – meeting new people is definitely a traveller thing to do

When I was in a bit of an Andalucian/Spanish love phase, I tried out a Spanish flamenco dance called Sevillanas just for fun (it was HARD) and watching a flamenco dance performance (simultaneously more interesting and dull than I thought it would be) during a local dance festival. That also inspired a search for a great tapas joint that served good Sangria (there are a surprising number of Spanish food joints in Singapore – I am fond of Zsofis and their prawns), and I was quite good about following up on my Duolingo Spanish lessons too at one point!

When you do end up visiting that country, you’ll be really prepared for it, and can better appreciate how that culture might have adapted itself to your hometown! (Churros and calamari just taste better in Spain, somehow!)

 

Explore your own home

Singapore Street Art - Rowell road alley
Did you know that there’s a really large piece of street art in Singapore by a famous American street artist? Yeah, I didn’t know either until I explored and saw it for myself! See more Singapore Street Art works here.

You think you might know your own homeground pretty well, but do you really? I realized when I started to bring visitors and some of my readers around, that I didn’t know little Singapore as well as I thought I did! And that motivated me to want to explore my own backyard a little bit more, dig deeper into history and all that has helped me appreciate Singapore as my home much more.

The one great thing about running The Occasional Traveller is that writing about Singapore has made me do so much more research than I normally would have, and it’s made me a much more curious person.

It’s not difficult to do, all it needs is for you to take a detour from your familiar pathways:

  • Offer to bring tourists and guests around – they’ll often ask you questions you might not have thought about yourself, and reveal how much you truly know about your hometown
  • Take a random trip – hop on a different bus route or take the train to the end of the line for a change, or go down that mysterious alley you’ve been wanting to explore, just because – Who knows what you’ll discover!
  • Check out your local museums and galleries – in the past, I would be more likely to visit these places overseas than I would in Singapore. That said, I keep a closer eye on festivals and interesting events happening there now, there are a surprising number of museums I didn’t even know existed in Singapore
  • Become a local expert – on whatever topic you please, whether it’s as broad as Singapore’s history or as narrow as awesome Chicken Rice stalls. You’ll naturally dig deeper into the history and context which gives you a richer understanding, and people seeking your advice will come your way, which lets you meet a variety of people you might not otherwise meet, like you’re on the road.

 

Live vicariously through others

Travel at Home - Balloon Selfie
Wouldn’t you love to be up there with them? Seeing this pop up on my facebook feed would send my morning into a tizzy~ Ballooning Harsen by Tom Jutte via Flickr CC

 

I’m always excited when I hear of my people I know travelling – depending on when/where/how much I like them, it generally ranges from ‘Happy more people are travelling’ to ‘OMG YOU’RE GOING WHERE? ENVIOUS >_<‘. I try not to get too jealous or bitter – it’s not going to get me anywhere (literally), and just take it as a reminder to get off my butt and start planning my next trip.

Of course Facebook and Instagram accounts of my friends and family are de rigeur to stalk – I find it especially interesting if someone else visits a place that I’ve already been to, and to compare their experiences and my own. Am I innately competitive? I like to think of it as seeing what I might have missed out on so I know what to do if I ever go back there!

Other travel bloggers are also awesome to follow, because the good ones usually give you useful info for your future trips or a great entertaining story to make you wanderlust. I’d recommend you anyone from my Bloghouse batch or my Wallpaper Wanderers to check out, but if you’re looking for other travel bloggers with full-time jobs other than myself and wondering how they did it too, here are couple you should check out:

  • Need Another Holiday by Clare is one of the first other travel bloggers I got to know. She’s based in Europe so she does lots of little European hops and even with an upcoming baby in tow, she’s still great inspiration!
  • Sateless Suitcase by Julika is a mutual friend, and besides lovely posts and pictures, she talks a lot about balancing her wanderlust and work as a medievalist (like, yes that is a real and cool thing people!)
  • Furious Panda by Red is still an awesome inspiring read about a dude who’s gotten into all sorts of hairy situations and somehow travelled 60+ countries, most of them in the Asian region!

How do you combat the wanderlust when you’re at home? Share your experience here!

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An Eminent Takeover – Eminent Plaza’s final facelifthttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/22/an-eminent-takeover/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/22/an-eminent-takeover/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15755 Eminent Plaza and Lavender Food Centre might be demolished in October 2014, but before it goes, see how art transforms urban spaces with An Eminent Takeover

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Eminent Takeover - Exterior
Eminent Plaza

Visitors to Singapore, or even Singaporeans themselves might not have heard of Eminent Plaza – this old building built in the 1980s sits prominently at the junction of Lavender Street and Jalan Besar and all I’ve known is for is that I used to pass it quite often when I took a bus through that area, and that it sits next to the more famous Lavender Food Centre where people queue for hours for the wanton mee.

The news that both Eminent Plaza and Lavender Food Centre were going to be torn down to make way for more office buildings wasn’t particularly earth shattering for me – The building apparently housed lots of dubious spas, karaoke joints and was generally a rather seedy place on the whole, while the food centre though iconic, wasn’t somewhere I visited very often. However, subsequently hearing about The Eminent Takeover, a project to let Singaporean artists takeover the building before its demolition in October 2014, was definitely something quite unusual and I decided I had to check out this place one last time before it disappeared completely.

I had no idea what to expect when I was there – little information is available on the web (see their official Facebook Event post here), an intentional act by the organizers apparently, so things just kinda happen quite organically and fluidly without any real guidelines. What I did know was that various types of art were going to be installed throughout the building, and that there were some music acts organized as well.

Here’s a bit of my experience, but if you can, I highly encourage you to pop by the building this week before they close it properly! My advice is to bring a sense of adventure and openness and you’ll be surprised what an abandoned old building can be transformed into, with the effort of people and art.

 

EXPLORING THE SPACE

Eminent Takeover - Level 1
Rolling out the red carpet at the entrance – the door on the right leads to the KTV pub cum stage
Eminent Takeover - Stairway to Heaven
I hear Led Zeppelin in my head every time I look at this Stairway to Heaven

Climb up the front entrance stairs and go up a ‘Stairway to Heaven’ to the 2nd level.

Eminent Takeover - Escalator Entrance
Go right into the office cum art space and see if anyone is hanging around!

Right in front of you is an abandoned-looking office space of the KTV pub next door has now been transformed into the HQ of the Eminent Takeover organizers who were sitting around on the old, rather dingy looking furniture.

Eminent Takeover - Portraits Office
Portraits around the office space

Elisa is one of these behind-the-scenes folk, and she kindly took us around the building and gave us lots of insights and showed us all the cool nooks and crannies we might not have had found without her help, so a huge kudos to her. Make sure you pop your head into the HQ to see if anyone might be around to take you about the space – they’re really friendly people. There are also several art works around the room, and even a merchandise store opened only on Friday nights.

Eminent Takeover - Home Club Portraiture
They were setting up for the launch of the Home Club Portraiture Project while we were there

If you end up walking around on your own, not to worry. On the second level opposite the offices, there’s another room which they were preparing for an exhibition. Lots of these rooms looked covered up or locked, but just try the door handle and see if you can enter – you might be surprised at what you find inside!

Eminent Takeover - Escalator Down
See those doors on the right? Go past them to the next set of doors and enter Lavenda Spa from there

More importantly, head over to the entrance of the apparently once famous Lavenda Spa, also on the second level. It might not look like anything much, but beyond the front entrance there is a veritable warren of rooms and surprises waiting for you inside, so don’t miss it!

Eminent Takeover - Signs
My favourite is “Mai Kei Kiang” :P

You’ll find that many of the spa’s rooms have been emblazoned with these rather hilarious Hokkien/English/Chinese signboards on the door. Do peek inside the rooms, you might come across some pretty interesting artworks – I like that those I saw were responses to the unusual space and/or its history – that’s what makes art more meaningful than just hanging up in a gallery for me.

Eminent Takeover - Spa Zen Stones
More abstract type artwork – doesn’t this just make it more… spa like? :)
Eminent Takeover - No happy ending
There’s no such thing as a happy ending – irony when placed in a ‘lapsap’ or ‘dirty’ spa
Eminent Takeover - Paper Pulp
This artist was at work covering the walls of a tiny little room with paper pulp. kinda cool effect
Eminent Takeover - Chair
This room used to be a theatre – now there is just one chair

A number of artists were working on their artworks while we wandered around, though many other rooms were still empty, with Elisa telling us about who they offered the space to and what they planned to do there, from street artists to more conceptual works.

Most spaces were free for all, but they did preserve one or two of the more unique ones. The steam room in particular was left untouched, and on its walls and doorways you could see etchings and markings of old gang signs and sayings.

Eminent Takeover - Steam Room
369 (sah-lak-gow in hokkien) was one of the more notorious gangs back in the day…

 

Back down the escalator, and we could hear a pretty loud soundcheck in progress – one of the KTV pubs was re-appropriated into a gig space where the KTV Takeover sessions were held, and inside were several other art installations, as well as a jamming studio.

Eminent Takeover - KTV door
Some of the bands who played at the KTV Takeover Series so far!
Eminent Takeover - Stage
Behind the stage, more visual art installations
Eminent Takeover - Jamming Studio
The lights weren’t on, hence this rather crappy shot, but the studio is being shared by 3 local bands – Pleasantry, Cashew Chemists and A N E C H O I S

 

Outside, the street art crews were hard at work, it must be nice for them to have proper walls with to spray on with such abandon! Most of the works were concentrated on the front entrance, though there were some at the back, and Elisa said some of the indoor spaces would be used as well. (Spotted on instagram – some of the art has even made it to the roof!)

Eminent Takeover - Street Art Stop and Smell the Roses
I like this one by Ink and Clog – Stop and smell the roses works really well with their chosen spot!
Eminent Takeover - Street Art Slacker
The Slacker – and you can see several other prominent local street artists credited on the left hand side
Eminent Takeover - Street Art Skull
Scary Skull!
Eminent Takeover - Street Art Robot
Love the colours, and this robot is really emoting~
Eminent Takeover - Street Art Face on Floor
I didn’t even notice this one on the floor at first!

And from outside on the Lavender Street side of the building, you can enter yet another room with several art installations as well (take a close look around!), but notable is SpeakCryptic’s rather iconic drawings further inside – he’s apparently the resident in this little ‘studio space’.

Eminent Takeover - SpeakCryptic Writing
Peeking through the window – part of SpeakCryptic’s work
Eminent Takeover - SpeakCryptic Drawings
Checking out SpeakCryptic’s drawings

This is just a smattering of some of the artworks that I saw – there’s not much time left, but do pop on by to see what you might discover! Whether or not you feel anything about the building, it’s a really great way to interact with art and see how it can transform and takeover an urban space. I really like the idea of it and hope I have the time to pop by one last time!


GETTING THERE

Eminent Plaza – 195 Lavender Street

Closest MRT Station if the North-East Line (Boon Keng)

Weekday Hours 6-10pm
Weekend Hours 3-8pm
Earlier hours by appointment (or if they happen to be around) – Please email aneminenttakeover@gmail.com

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Live the designer life at BIG Hotelhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/12/live-designer-life-big-hotel-singapore/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/12/live-designer-life-big-hotel-singapore/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15593 A short staycation at a BIG Hotel - A review on this boutique designer hotel with a great central location in the Arts & Heritage district of Singapore

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There’s just been so much going on in Singapore recently – lots of arts events are happening right now for some reason, which means I’m extra busy at work, and recently I took some time off to check out the Singapore Night Festival that happened in the Bras Basah Bugis area, or what they’re calling Singapore’s Art and Heritage District.

Since the folk at BIG Hotel had invited me to check out the hotel, I thought this would be the best time to do it, and it sure was nice just strolling back to my hotel at 1am to crash instead of trying to hail a cab home!

Here’s a little more about my BIG hotel stay:

Getting There

Big Hotel - Facade
Is the BIG Hotel really big?

BIG Hotel has a great location in the Bras Basah district along Middle road. It’s away from the bustle enough for the surroundings not to be too noisy, yet close enough to the action that you can get to the major sights and shopping malls quite easily – 10-15min walk will get you to most major nearby sights.

The closest MRT is probably Bras Basah on the Circle line, but you could walk a little more to Dhoby Ghaut, which is a major interchange of Circle, North-East and North-South lines, so it’s quite convenient for travellers.

 

The Room

Big Hotel - Room Keycard
I like being a bigshot!

I checked into room 1321 on the 13th floor. The overall room has a great designer vibe, very clean and almost showroom like, with concrete walls and lots of wooden panelling. I stayed in the Executive Room, which honestly isn’t very large, but for a traveller who’s likely to spend most of her time out of the room, it’s quite enough.

It’s got this open concept thing going for it which makes efficient use of the tight space – there aren’t any cupboards, just hooks and knobs on a wall – this lack of cupboard paneling helps create the feel of a larger space in the room.

Big Hotel - Room from Door
Standing at the door with my wide angle iphone lens to give you a better view of the room. The toilet is on the left
Big Hotel - Room from Window
I’m standing at the window next to my bed and shooting towards the doorway

The bathroom is narrow and pretty tight – there’s only enough room for the toilet bowl and shower, so they stuck the sink outside instead, and while that does help save space a bit, it’s a bit weird washing your hands outside the loo, and I feel like I don’t have enough ledge space to put my toiletries.

Big Hotel - bathroom
small but efficient bathroom. Rain shower option as well!
Big Hotel - Coffee Machine
There are 2 Nespresso capsules in the room, along with tea bags and mineral water.

The bed is quite the showpiece, a large king sized bed and very comfortable – they put it on a raised platform with space underneath it, which is a smart space saving idea. It also has a large flat screen TV placed attached to the wall right at its end, so even if you checked in with the plan to spend all day indoors, you’re probably not going to move much from this comfortable bed especially when you have a whole slew of popular movies on demand at your finger tips. Wish I had more time to indulge!

Big Hotel - Space Saving
Safe and space to stow luggage under the bed
Big Hotel - View from Window
There aren’t very many windows in the room – this tall narrow one was next to the bed. you can see La Salle College of the Arts (black building) on the right side

Each room is equipped with a Google Nexus, and  besides pre-loaded apps and info, it can also control all the room lights and the Do-Not-Disturb sign on the door! You can also activate the Internet TV Protocol, and the same movie selection as on the TV is available for watchng, so if you lose the war for the remote, you could just plug in and watch your chosen show on a smaller screen. It’s also useful for those without their smart devices, as you can take it out of the room and use it instead of incurring charges on your own phone!

Big Hotel - Nexus 7
Being able to turn on and off all the lights on a device is quite novel…

 

Big Hotel - Corridor
outside the rooms – water cooler and ice machine on every floor

The Hotel

Big Hotel - Reception
the showroom like reception. it’s kinda nice to see people comfortable enough to just hang out here

It’s designed to feel like you’ve stepped into a designer’s house, and that’s something you feel right when you step into the lobby as you descend the stairs from the entrance at level 1. The reception area feel like it sprung out the living room of a showroom, and it’s obviously quite popular with guests as they lounge around this fancy living room, reading the newspapers or flipping the channels on TV.

There is a restaurant on the other side of the basement called the Nook, which also serves up takeaway food deli-style, so busy travellers can just grab and go if they need to, and is also where they serve breakfast in the morning. If you want a tipple, there’s a lovely little bar area called Grape and Grain up on level 2, which looks pretty nice to hang out in. If you’re in need of last minute snacks, the 24-hour convenience store Cheers is right around the corner.

Big Hotel - Nook
the Nook is located on basement 1, same level as the reception. i like the deli style counter

Other amenities include a gym on level 2, but that’s about it for this boutique hotel.

 

Around the Area

For museum lovers, you’re in the arts and heritage district with lots of options nearby to satisfy the culture vulture in you. The Singapore Art Museum and National Museum are within 10-15 mins walk from the hotel. I checked out the Singapore Night Festival while I stayed there, walking the entire district, and then heading back to my room at close to 1am.

For the shoppers, you can hit up the more popular The Cathay, Plaza Singapura, Bugis Plus, Bugis Junction within 10 mins walk, or maybe check out some hidden gems. Sunshine Plaza is popular with students and has a great dim sum place called Victor’s Kitchen, or the Selegie stretch has a rather eclectic mix of nightlife, gaming and other random spaces within.

 

Price

I stayed in the executive room with breakfast, which usually goes at S$218, but when I last checked an equivalent stay on the website, prices were as low as $148. There are smaller rooms which were going for $188 as well. Do check out their website and consider booking directly from there because they have some pretty good deals, like for solo travellers and with a no-breakfast option too.

 

BIG Hotel
200 Middle Road, Singapore 188980

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Reader Recs: Cafes to visit in Singapore (and a CafeFest Singapore review)http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/08/favourite-cafes-singapore-cafe-fest-giveaway/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/08/favourite-cafes-singapore-cafe-fest-giveaway/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15615 Looking for a cool hang out in Singapore? My readers recommend their favourite cafes to visit in Singapore, and I check out the inaugural CafeFest and whether it was worth it!

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If you’re wandering around Singapore on the weekend, one favourite way to escape the heat is to pop into one of the many myriad cafes that have been springing up all over Singapore. Cafes were once the mainstay of the hipster crowd looking to see and be seen, but these days you can find just about anyone in a cafe looking for a nice place to chill out.

The folks at Skyscanner Singapore kindly offered me and my readers some tickets to check out the inaugural CafeFest Singapore, which brought together 12 popular Singaporean cafes together in a 2-day festival with music and games to boot! I held a little giveaway for my readers asking about their favourite cafes in Singapore, here are some of their recommendations which I thought I’d compile and share with everyone else.

A quick note that I haven’t been to most of these places myself, so I’m gonna have to do a little exploring sometime soon! Also, I am not a coffee drinker at all so I can’t give you any personal feedback on some of these coffee, but I can give you an opinion based on what my friends are raving about!

 

CENTRAL

Downtown hip areas where people like to congregate and hang out on a weekend, these places are where you see and be seen, and an easy place for you to take a quick break at before going shopping or checking out the downtown area.

RONIN
17 Hong Kong Street (Clarke Quay area)

This coffee joint was one of the more popular recommendations from my readers. “Consistently good coffee and smiley service crew“, says nigochu. Another reader Khai Yuan meanwhile liked the ambiance and how you had the option of sitting at communal tables or smaller high-seat tables. Be warned that the data connection is apparently weak here, but as Khai Yuan puts it quite optimistically, “no distraction and a good place to have some alone time!“. It also doesn’t seem to have a website or social media pages, so no pix unfortunately, but check out the Yelp reviews here.

 

TOBY’S ESTATE
8 Rodyk Street, #01-03/04 (Robertson Quay area)

Cafes in Singapore - Tobys Estate
Photo via Tobys Estate Facebook Page

Another of reader Khai Yuan’s favourite places because of its great coffee, it’s easy to see that he’s not the only one who thinks so because when I was at CafeFest, Toby’s Estate had one of the longest queues throughout the day! My friend P gave their coffee the thumbs up, but sadly passed up on the pulled pork sandwich which according to various comments I’ve seen, is quite delectable.

 

ARTISTRY
17 Jalan Pinang (Bugis area)

Cafes in Singapore - Artistry
Dessert after lunch with the colleagues – this is an incredible peanut-butter reeses choc cake, mhhmmm

Reader Brian proclaims that the “red velvets coupled with their friendly atmosphere always make my day complete!”. I like the ambiance of the place and it’s pretty nice to chill in the outdoor area when the weather is good. What’s also great is their support of local musicians who often hold gigs here, and also nearby are Ernest Zacharevic’s street art which you can check out while digesting your meal.

 

NYLON COFFEE ROASTERS
4 Everton Park Road #01-04 (Outram area)
Closed on Tuesdays

Cafes in Singapore - Nylon Coffee Roasters
Photo via Nylon Coffee Roasters Facebook page

“Great coffee” says my other giveaway winner Andre gives it his stamp of approval for great coffee, which is a common refrain I’ve heard from most people who visit. It’s not quite a proper cafe – more for the coffee lover who takes their brews seriously and want to stand around with other coffee lovers, don’t expect to lounge your day away in this cafe!

 

I AM CAFE
674 North Bridge Road (Kampong Glam / Bugis area)
Closed on 1st/3rd Mondays of the month

Cafes in Singapore - I Am
Photo via I am Facebook Page

Nice ambiance, good coffee, generous portion of food, and my favourite red velvet cake” says ja3cywong. It’s pretty new but well located in one of my favourite parts of Singapore, Kampong Glam, close to hipster shopping street Haji Lane. They were also at CafeFest but I didn’t manage to check them out much.

 

HEARTLAND

These cafes are located in heartland residential areas, and most easily visited by people who live around them so not as convenient for visitors to Singapore. Still, distance has never stopped a true blue cafe-loving Singaporean from getting there, and if you have a little more time to spare and some inkling to explore how Singaporeans live, here are some places to check out.

CREAMIER
128 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 #01-835
Closed on Mondays

Cafes in Singapore - Creamier Ice Cream
photo via Creamier’s Facebook page

A popular ice cream cafe located in one of Singapore’s older public housing estates, the lucky people near the Toa Payoh area like Chris How get to enjoy their great homemade ice cream and famous waffles right in their neighbourhood. I’ve heard so many good things about them, this is definitely top of my list to check out!

 

HABITAT COFFEE
223 Upper Thomson Road
Closed on Mondays

Cafes in Singapore - Habitat
Photo via  Habitat Coffee Facebook Page

Reader Amanda Lua loves to hang out with her friends at this cafe located along Thomson Road. It’s not the easiest to get to as there’s no nearby MRT, but there’s lots of good food along this stretch of road, so make it a proper food expedition and then pop in here right at the end to chill out after you’re stuffed!

 

HATTER STREET BAKEHOUSE AND CAFE
Blk 212 Hougang Street 21 #01-333
Closed on Mondays

Cafes in Singapore - Hatter Street
Photo via Hatter Street Facebook page

Quirky cafe and mouth watering desserts” says my reader Eunice, and you know things are a little different at this cafe just from the rather colourful get-ups the folk manning their CafeFest booth were wearing! This Alice in Wonderland inspired cafe did have some pretty interesting looking cakes and desserts on display, so definitely for those who like to have some fun with their food.

 

CHOCK FULL OF BEANS
Blk 4 Changi Village Road #01-2090

Cafes in Singapore - Chock Full of Beans
photo via Chock Full of Beans facebook page

Reader and giveaway winner Debbie loves the “whimsical 3D latte art” and there are lots of amazing examples on their facebook page. It might be worth your while to venture to this far, far eastern end of Singapore just to check it out!

 

WIMBLY LU
15-2 Jalan Riang (Serangoon area)
Closed on Mondays

Cafes in Singapore - Wimbly Lu
photo via Wimbly Lu website

This place is hidden quite far inside a private housing estate so it’s not the easiest place to get to without a car – speaking of which, look for the classic VW Beetle that’s perpetually parked outside this shop! The oddly named Wimbly Lu specializes in chocolates and has some really delectable sweets for sale, including this rootbeer cake dessert above. They recently opened another small branch in Serangoon Gardens, which is marginally easier to get to!

 

VISITING CAFEFEST

So this last Saturday, I popped down to the Waterfront Promenade at the Marina Bay Sands area to check out this inaugural 2-day festival with the Skyscanner folk. Overall I think CafeFest was a great concept, bringing 12 popular but scattered cafes to 1 central area so people can try their food. However, the ticket bit (pre-fest tix cost from $20-30 depending) seemed a little bit redundant as the event was open to public (not exclusive as they initially claimed) and the discounts for ticket holders weren’t very significant ($0.50 – $1 on average). Also, they didn’t seem to know or have any news about ticket perks like the Uber rides, so their organization could use quite a bit of work. This post should give you an idea what’s happening on the CafeFest social media pages now (i.e. not good at all!)

Updated 14 Sep 2014: In case you’re one the poor folk trying to seek compensation for the tix, just know that it’s turning into a bit of a fiasco! Stay tuned to the CafeFest FB page for the updates on that

My friend P also pointed out that it was pretty hard to eat that much anyway because honestly, how much coffee/cakes can you consume at a go? Some ideas we thought might be awesome would be to sell sample sized portions for $1 each so you could really try everything if you wanted to, give some spending credits for ticket holders and much better discounts of at least 50% to make the pre-sales worthwhile. Our killer idea? Have an awesome $12-for-12-coffee-shots sampler set exclusively for pass holders (anyone want to hire us for your next event? :P)

Still, if you didn’t bother with tickets and aren’t involved in the current brouhaha, you would probably have had a pretty fun experience just hanging out on the boardwalk with a plethora of food and drink choices and enjoying some of the activities like music performances from the Spotify pavilion or the random ping-pong tables by Fred Perry.

CafeFestSG - Sign
The 12 cafes you could find at CafeFest
CafeFestSG - Giveaway Debbie
Me and Debbie with our CafeFest goodie bags at the entrance!
CafeFestSG - Providore Chocolate
I had this pretty decadent drinking chocolate from The Providore, a pretty newish Aussie style cafe that opened up in Mandarin Gallery Shopping Arcade. Not related at all to the Providore which I saw in Margaret River though!
CafeFestSG - Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich
This was breakfast :P

 

The CafeFest tix for this giveaway and my own visit were courtesy of Skyscanner Singapore, much thanks to the lovely Pamela for arranging everything and being such a cool chick to hang out with at CafeFest. Follow Skyscanner on Twitter or Facebook for the best flight deals and travel inspiration!

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Richard Silver gets Time Slicedhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/03/richard-silver-gets-time-sliced/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/03/richard-silver-gets-time-sliced/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15617 See famous landmarks around the world shift from day to night in a single image in Richard Silver's Time Sliced series.

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It’s been a bit of a weekend, having some domain problems which had my site down for the entire weekend. I did feel kinda lost, and it’s thrown off my already spotty posting schedule even more as I spent more time troubleshooting than actually getting any writing done!

So I’m gonna distract you with pretty pictures today from the Time Sliced series by photographer Richard Silver, who took photos of famous landmarks around the world around sunset, which he then stitched together into a single image where you can see the light change from day to night in slices of time.

I like how you can almost see time passing you by as you look at the pictures and you can somehow feel the sunset taking place. Awesome work! See the full series on his website or over here at flickr (there’s a Marina Bay Sands one too!)

Richard Silver Time Sliced Rome
I want to see the coliseum in Rome some day!
Richard Silver Time Sliced London
London’s Westminster Abbey looks so regal
Richard Silver Time Sliced Istanbul
Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia is also another place on the bucket list
Richard Silver Time Sliced Easter Island
the Moa on Easter Island is one of my favourite pix of his entire series!
Richard Silver Time Sliced Beijing
Beijing’s birds nest stadium looks like a phoenix egg about to hatch!

 

Photos of Richard’s work via Colossal, used with permission.

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