The Occasional Traveller http://theoccasionaltraveller.com Occasionally Travelling, Always Inspiring Thu, 29 Jan 2015 07:52:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 What art would you put in your Hypothetical Mansion?http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2015/01/28/art-put-hypothetical-mansion/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2015/01/28/art-put-hypothetical-mansion/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16533 "In my Hypothetical Mansion" was something borne out of my visits to artsy galleries and museums and has kept me entertained even as I learn to appreciate the art. Try it for yourself!

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So lately you might have noticed my Instagram feed getting all artsy recently as I check out several arts events that fall under Singapore Art Week, which as its name implies is a full week (9 days actually) chock-full of visual arts related events happening all around Singapore. Many of the programmes extend beyond these 9 days, and I was going to write a more proper and informative post on my recs for you to check out for an artsy weekend of your own in Singapore…

But you know what, I thought I’d let you in on you something I often do when I check out art exhibitions that’s a whole lot more fun~

Despite working in the arts, I appreciate art on a very layman scale – I either like it or I don’t, I have relatively few deep thoughts about the art I see. To amuse myself, one thing I do to decide how much I like /dislike an artwork is something I call the Hypothetical Mansion Scale.

Carson Mansion - Kay Gaensler
I’d like to think that my Hypothetical Mansion would have quite a lot of character, both inside and out! Photo by Kay Gaensler via Flickr CC

It’s really very simple – All you need to do is look at a piece of artwork and ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Would I buy this for my Hypothetical Mansion? Imagine yourself as a filthy rich person with an endless supply of money, looking to fill up your imaginary giant mansion with art. Remember, money is no object – you can afford any art piece(s) that you lay your eyes on because you are rollin’ in dough.
  2. If I buy this for my Hypothetical Mansion, where would I display it? Your mansion can have any amount of rooms or types of rooms as you want – think about where you would display your art piece, and why. Space is no constraint either.

It works best for visual arts pieces that you can buy, and is most fun when played with a few like-minded friends – you might be surprised what types of answers they’ll give which is a fun way to discuss art. Also, I think it’s a way to entertain yourself if you’re not much of an arts enthusiast and find yourself being dragged through galleries by your more avid culture vulture buddies when on travels, or you are in a foreign museum with no way of reading the texts for further explanation.

Slightly irreverent reviews ahead! Let’s get started:

 

Cloud Series by Suzann Victor

Hypothetical-Mansion---Suzann-Victor
There are a bunch of works in the cloud series, mostly fixed to the wall and of different colours, but this was the largest one and suspended from the ceiling.
Hypothetical-Mansion---Suzann-Victor-Closeup
Love the colours!

Would I buy this for my Hypothetical Mansion? YES, it’s really pretty! Pictures don’t really do it justice

Where would it go? In my Hypothetical front hallway, hanging in a high well-lit stairwell above the heads of guests who have just entered through the main door. I love the way it catches the light and the intricate detailing made with something as simple as paper pulp and acrylic!

Imprint: New Works by Suzann Victor
STPI (41 Robertson Quay)
Exhibition till 21 Feb 2015
Free entry! It’s a small gallery and collection – catch it soon!

 

Golden Teardrop by Arin Rungjang

Hypothetical-Mansion---Arin-Rungjang-closeup
This work is pretty mesmerizing close up – so precise you can see different patterns emerge as you walk around the ball
Hypothetical-Mansion---Arin-Rungjang-ball
Here’s how the work looks like from further away. It is accompanied by a video piece but I didn’t think that was particularly interesting

Would I buy this for my Hypothetical Mansion? YES, the detail is quite exquisite, it’s quite arresting in person

Where would it go? I’d like to put it somewhere at floor level because there’s something quite fascinating about the patterns that emerge as you walk around the structure. I’m thinking a centerpiece in my large round Hypothetical driveway so I could circle it with my fancy car as I drop off my keys for my personal valet to park (I am living it up in my Hypothetical Mansion)

Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize
Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Road
Exhibition till 15 Mar 2015
Free entry for Singaporeans! $10 for tourists

*The 2014 Signature Art Prize winner has already been chosen, but notable works I liked were Yao Jui-Chung + Lost Society Document‘s quite arresting photo/documentary series on disused public property in Taiwan and the very fantasy story-like Custos Cavum (Guardian of the Hole) by South Korean artist Choe U-Ram.

 

Utama’s Cat by David Chan

Hypothetical-Mansion-David-Chan-Utamas-Cat
The museum security guard was very keen to know whether we realized it was a lion and not an actual cat (Utama refers to Sang Nila Utama, the dude who supposedly spotted a lion and named our little island ‘Singapura’)

Would I buy this for my Hypothetical Mansion? Maybe… I was a little underwhelmed by its smaller-than-expected size – this would have been really impressive if it was about 3x its current size. I did like that the lion was quite visibly made up of old furniture bits!

Where would it go? Perhaps a corner of one of my many hypothetical front lawns!

Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Road
Exhibition till 15 Mar 2015
Free entry for Singaporeans! $10 for tourists

 

Cattleland by Eunice Lim

Hypothetical-Mansion-Eunice-Cattleland
Cows! Quite a large and eye catching piece of work!

Would I buy this for my Hypothetical Mansion? Well it’s not for sale, but I’d be happy to commission someone to paint this on a wall.

Where would it go? I’m thinking a corner of my very large Hypothetical garden, maybe a garden shed?

This was a part of ArtWalk Little India by LASALLE College of the Arts. I hope they keep the works here permanently! This particular piece can be found at the exit of Little India MRT station along Buffalo Road. 

Falling Water by Hiroshi Senju

Hypothetical-Mansion-Hiroshi-Senju-Day-Falls
I imagine being a very, very small person looking at giant underground waterfalls in the distance

Would I buy this for my Hypothetical Mansion? Yes! i had no idea who the artist was when i first saw this at Art Stage, but I immediately thought of underground caverns and waterfalls – there’s something quite mystical and pretty about it. (I’d also been rewatching some of The Hobbit movie extras, so this made me think of some underground cavern in Middle Earth)

Where would it go? In a nice long corridor to be admired as you stroll from one end to the other.

Day Falls/Night Falls by Hirosho Senju
Sundaram Tagore
Blk 5 Lock Road, #01-05, Gillman Barracks
Exhibition till 8 March 2015
Free entry

I first saw this work at Art Stage, but the artist Hiroshi Senju is also having an exhibition at Sundaram Tagore gallery, where they are showing his latest works done with UV ink, which has a really cool glow at night! Definitely another work that looks better in person!

Hypothetical-Mansion-Hiroshi-Senju-Night-Falls
More enchanting in person, the blue glow is kinda eerie but very cool. Sadly they closed the gallery by the time I got there, so I only got to see this from outside!

 

Maya942 by Park Seung Mo

Hypothetical-Mansion-Park-Seung-Mo
Can you believe that this is exquisitely layered wire mesh and a little bit of lighting? I can’t imagine how he pictured this in his head and got wire mesh to have such nuanced details!

Would I buy this for my Hypothetical Mansion? From afar without the lights on, you wouldn’t be as drawn to it, but the glowing light really highlights the wire mesh and makes the work come alive.

Where would it go? Hm perhaps on a staircase landing on the way to an upper level. Somewhere you can chance upon this work for a nice surprise!

I saw this artwork at Art Stage Singapore 2015, and while there isn’t any exhibition happening, you can find out more about artist Park Seung Mo at Ode to Art’s website here. Their gallery is located at Raffles City Shopping Centre, #01-36E/F

Carlos Róne / Dzine

Hypothetical-Mansion-Carlos-Rolon-Dzine
I like the reflections, and it is kinda trippy~

Would I buy this for my Hypothetical Mansion? It is kinda trippy, I didn’t really like most of his other stuff, so you could say this was my favourite. I like the weird reflections and the neon yellow

Where would it go? Well it’s not particularly practical is it? Random alcove or corridor near a window to catch the light

Carlos Róne / Dzine: Mi Casa
Pearl Lam Galleries
Blk 9 Lock Road, #03-22 Gillman Barracks
Exhibition till 15 March 2015
Free entry

Monarch by David Mach

Hypothetical-Mansion-Moose-Hangers
That’s all silver hangers. Once again, how is this possible??

Would I buy this for my Hypothetical Mansion? Apparently I’m drawn to really weird and intricate sculptures for my Hypothetical Mansion – Yes I would totally buy this.

Where would it go? I’d put it right in the main hallway (Under the Suzann Victor work?) or possibly right by my front gate, just because.

If you are observant, you might realize that there was a similar work of a gorilla in my previous Art Stage post – the British artist David Mach has a whole series of sculptures made from silver coathangers. They are pretty large and definitely hard to miss!

 

And finally, I leave you with a bizarre set of works that I came across at the hotel art fair Art Apart, which while supposedly had an urban art theme, but didn’t really impress me much at all. I forgot the artist’s name, but man these are trippy. Definitely not making it to my Hypothetical Mansion!

Hypothetical-Mansion-Cat-Bread
Yes, those are loaves of cat bread

Hope you guys have fun during your next trip to the gallery! And remember, these are purely personal opinions, I can’t say I’m any sort of expert – For the record this record-selling $2.15 million Damien Hirst work at the recent Art Stage 2015? Did not make it to my hypothetical mansion at all (neither did I realize butterflies were involved, I saw it from afar and said “wow that looks like the entrance to a fancy Chinese restaurant”.)

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Reviewing the Lily Cup Compact – the world’s first collapsible menstrual cuphttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2015/01/15/lily-cup-compact-collapsible-menstrual-cup/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2015/01/15/lily-cup-compact-collapsible-menstrual-cup/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16488 A review of the Lily Cup Compact, a menstrual cup with a rather interesting collapsible function

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So… MENSTRUAL CUPS.

(sorry boys, that’s the hint for you to read another post if you are squeamish, but just so you know women are always pleasantly surprised when men know more than just ‘PMS’ when it comes to feminine matters, so read on for research purposes!)

Back to the ladies – you’ll know that when it comes to that womanly time of the month, I am a pretty strong proponent of using a menstrual cup over pads and even tampons. It’s environmentally friendly, space saving and comfortable once you get the hang of it, all important things you need as an active female traveller who wants to spend her travel time worrying about what to see than whether she’s sprung a leak.

I started off with the Lunette, and I currently use the Victoria’s Love with its convenient discharge valve, so at first glance the only thing that intrigued me about the Lily Cup Compact was its slightly odd shape:

Intimina-Lily-Cup-open-hand
Holding the Lily Cup Compact in my hand to give you an idea of the size. Most cups have smooth surfaces, so the ridges on these were what caught my eye. That’s its container in the background, but how does it fit…

And then it did THIS:

Intimina-Lily-Cup-collapsed-hand
Like holy guacamole that’s how it fits into the container!

Like, how cool is that? The creator apparently took inspiration from Japanese collapsible cups and wanted something equally elegant. I love how you can collapse it down into something so flat, which makes it so much easier to slip into your bag – the problem with the usual menstrual cups is while they aren’t particularly bulky, their bulb like shape does take up precious space when you’re trying to minimize carrying around a load.

Lily_Cup_Compact_collapse
How the cup looks when collapsed from the side

The Lily cup in compact form is easy to palm discreetly and relatively flat, so it’s easy to pack into tiny bags. When you’re travelling around and trying not to carry too much, this definitely goes a long way.

The folks at Intimina kindly sent over one for me to try – I’ve been using it for about 2 months now to get a better feel for it, and am quite happy with it so far. I’m using the Small size A (there’s a larger size B), so it does have to be removed and emptied more often especially in the start of my period, but on lighter flow days, I can wear it comfortably all day without feeling a thing. I like the Victoria’s Love cup for the convenience of the discharge valve, but the stem is quite a lot longer (by virtue of the fact that it also functions as a discharge valve, it would be a pain to use if the stem was too short!) so you are definitely more aware that you’re wearing it.

comparison-lily-victoria-lunette-liner
Putting the menstrual cups side by side with a typical pantyliner as a size reference. The pink one is the Lily Cup, the green one is the lunette and the clear one is the Victoria’s Love. While the VL is the longest, the width of the cup on top is actually smaller

When it comes to the material, the Lily Cup compact uses a medical grade silicone which is really soft compared to the Lunette which is harder while the Victoria’s Love is more rubbery feeling. I had concerns that the collapsible nature of the Lily Cup Compact would make insertion hard, but in fact I think it actually helps instead – I used to have problems getting the cup to ‘pop’ back open (you need to fold it when you insert, and then wiggle it around a bit for the folded cup lips to pop back open and create the seal inside of you. but something about the shape of the collapsible system makes it pop back open more easily.

The only thing I noticed that I didn’t like was that there seemed to be a bit of staining inside the cup that can’t be washed away completely, but that’s a pretty minor thing all around. Also I wish it wasn’t so pink – I know it’s a girly thing but it would be cool if there were other colour options.

Right now I use the Victoria’s Love for heavy days and switch to the Lily Cup Compact for medium to light days. I’ve also taken to carrying the Lily Cup in my bag because it’s so compact.

Lily_Cup_Compact_product_only

The Lily Cup Compact has done quite well for itself, getting successfully funded on Kickstarter. It’s also currently being sold for US$39.90 on its website, which might seem expensive, but think about how much time and space you’ll save from buying pads in the long run – the recommended lifespan is up to 5 years!

Check out the Lily Cup Compact on the Intimina website here. I’m happy to answer any questions if you are curious about menstrual cups in general, just drop a comment here so we can care and share :)

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Why you should take time to make travel memories (and how to do it)http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2015/01/12/make-travel-memories-how-to/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2015/01/12/make-travel-memories-how-to/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16499 Why I keep such extensive travel journals, a look at my stash and how you can create your own travel memories too

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Back in the day before the idea of travel blogging was a thing for me, I always been an avid sort of journal keeper, a little obsessed with preserving my memories and just remembering things. I had a personal blog (from 2003, aw blogspot~) and various caches of organizers-cum-diaries that recorded both my schedule and my thoughts all the way from 1997.

So when I started travelling on my own, that naturally extended to me keeping physical travel journals, which is something I continue to do, even today. My earliest proper travel journals were back from 2007, my grad trip to Taiwan (I actually have scans of my journals in there if you are interested!), and a semi-solo visit to a friend in France and Spain, but I have random souvenirs, keepsakes and notes on hotel stationery from even earlier which are stored in a separate box.

Travel Journals Labelled
Travel journals from my trips in recent years. You will notice they are more like travel packets rather than journals because I use the notebook to hold lots of other ephemera like maps, tickets, brochures and other knick-knacks!

It’s kinda fun looking back now and flipping through these old memories – it brings back memories of things that happened that I had half-forgotten, and even some moments that I don’t recall anymore but remember again because I recorded them faithfully in a cute little notebook while in transit somewhere. I’m pretty sure some of my current memories are aided by the fact that I wrote them down – that act of recording helps me sort out the jumbles in my mind and gives coherence to stories that become, which makes for stronger recall and recollection of fun anecdotes :)

Travel Journals Spain 2008 Ducks
This was from a family trip in 2008 to Madrid where I was convinced I saw the biggest ducks, ever! I don’t think I have pix of these nor do I really recall exactly how the ducks look like, but it’s fun to see that even 7 years on, I’m pretty sure I would still be as in awe of huge ducks as I was back then

One of the main reasons I started The Occasional Traveller was as a way to electronically record these memories and sync them up with all the digital photos that I had, and it definitely makes it easier to find info, but there’s still something about the immediacy of scribbling down your thoughts on the go, and being able to stick a train ticket or beer label on to a spare page – it’s your most authentic reaction and it tells you something about yourself and the way you think. Revisiting these memories later on gives you perspective and reflection, and who doesn’t like a good ol’ reminiscence of their awesome past trips!

If you’re thinking about starting your own travel journals and collecting your own memories but have never found the will or way to do it, there really is no better time to start than right now, because… why not? I have a couple of tips that I think will help you start and keep this habit going – the challenging part about journalling (or blogging even) is finding that momentum to keep going, so this might help!

DO IT YOUR WAY

Osaka - Umeda Sky Building Sketch
Well one thing’s for sure, Journalling is always better with a beer at hand!

I can’t emphasize how important this is – these are your travel memories, so you don’t have to emulate anyone else, just find the best way that works for you. Don’t force yourself to keep lengthy diaries if you hate to write, or don’t lug around a DSLR camera if you like travelling light. There is NO ‘one right way’ to do it – I think people sometimes get a bit caught up in trying to doing what other people are doing, which is why they run out of steam so quickly, because it’s not something they enjoy doing themselves so it doesn’t come naturally to them.

I like to write my entire day’s activity and thoughts out chronologically, and sketch interesting things that I see, record photos of a place with my phone and stick physical mementos in my travel journal, something I do at the end of the day or while chilling out in the middle of a trip. It’s easy for me to keep doing this because I honestly enjoy being a little long winded and detailed.

Travel Journals Vietnam 2011 Beer Label
A beer label says a thousand words!

You can use other people’s methods to give you ideas on getting started though. This is a non-exhaustive list of ways you can record a memory – I’d love to hear what you do to record your memories!

  • Travel blogging (of course)
  • Video – Vlogs of your trip
  • Audio – recording ambient sounds of a place or keeping an audio journal
  • Drawing – so much you can do! Detailed sketches, lazy doodles or fancy water colours,
  • Photography – whatever type of camera or photography you like, or doing themed series that cut across your trip (e.g. bringing along a little mascot for every city you visit, or taking picture of a postbox in every town you pass through)
  • Map pinning – whether physical or digital
  • Scrapbooks – keeping boxes or folders of physical ephemera you find on your trip

The important take away is that there are so many ways you can record a trip memory, that you shouldn’t feel like you can only do it in one way. You don’t even have to be great at it – have you seen my sketches??

Travel Journals Barcelona 2008
I enjoy sketching but I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not something I’m particularly good at. This is me describing various aspects of Gaudi architecture from Barcelona to myself. Trust me when I say this isn’t going to be winning me any art titles anytime soon.

MORE ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER

Don’t feel you like you need to record EVERYTHING. Most people give up journaling halfway because it starts to get too tedious, and it begins to hinder their enjoyment of travel rather than help it. You will never be able to remember everything, and unless you’re a little obsessive about having a full set of memories like I am, you don’t need to remember all the mundane details.

My travel journals usually start off really neat and detailed, but by the middle of the trip, things start to get rather messy and I don’t record as faithfully as I do. I have often left travel journals unfinished just because I get so tired towards the end, from the trip and the journalling. Often I keep an initial outline set of memories in point form so I don’t forget the stuff, and then I spend more time later on recording it in longer form when I’m in the mood later on.

Travel Journals UAE Falcon
That is a very chicken-y looking falcon at the Falcon Hospital in Abu Dhabi. It was a very educational experience and I still remember quite vividly watching the falcons get treated. I remember writing this later in the night and still having the details quite fresh in my head.

I suggest that you start small and just note down the key things that strike you – Think about your feelings at that moment, and record pertinent names or details related to that event. I have blanks in my books or even on my phone notes for factual details that I know I can Google later on, but nothing can replicate your unique sensory memory of that moment later on, so that’s the key part that you’re trying to record down.

 

JUST DO IT

Don’t be obsessed about having the right equipment or the right way or the right time – just go out and get started! Like everything in life, it usually gets easier once you hit the ground running, so get out there and do it!

 

What do you do to preserve your travel memories? Share them here!

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Rivers of London – An Ode to the Cityhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2015/01/05/rivers-of-london-review/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2015/01/05/rivers-of-london-review/#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16495 Travelling without leaving home - reading the Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch brought back memories of my own London trip in 2014.

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So we kick off 2015 without any firm travel plans for the year (which is a little unusual, I usually have some idea of where I’m headed in the first quarter at least), but while I decide on that, I spent my New Year’s day curled up with some snacks and a new book (some rare reading!) to spark some wanderlusting. This time it took me back to my London trip last year.

Rivers of London
A book about London with some Japanese and German snacks – International inspiration while reading in the comforts of my own home. It’s one way to travel without leaving home!

Well it’s not a new release – Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch was first published in 2010 and there have been 4 other sequels since which I probably will pick up because I enjoyed the first book. It reads as a first person narration by the protagonist Peter Grant, an aspiring policeman in London who accidentally stumbles on the more magical side of the city while on the job, which leads him to doing magic, discovering supernatural creatures and helping to solve London’s otherworldly crimes.

You could call it an urban fantasy, or magical realism – it’s akin to another favourite book of mine called Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, where magic exists alongside everyday life that we know (it is also set very intimately in London, so I recognized a lot of the place names while visiting the city, and it was a wonder putting a visual to something that’s existed mostly in my head). I like how the magic here has some basis in science as well, a little different from Neverwhere and Harry Potter where we just assume that magic exists, just because.

But one thing that struck me about this book is the absolute detail it goes into describing London and its surroundings. You can tell that the author (London born of course) has very intimate knowledge of the city and being in the city – the detail that he drops into the narrative does a lot to bring the place alive. Since I was just there less than a year ago, some of these places that he mentions like Covent Garden, The Thames and even Camden for example are spots that I can actually see in my head because I’d actually been there. I usually enjoy fantasy because it lets me build worlds in my head, but being able to see the setting in my head and relate it to real places has been quite nice.

Go check out the book if you’re a fan of London and would enjoy a story that is part-history, part-commentary and part-cartographic about the city. I will admit that the first person narrative takes a bit of getting used to – Peter Grant is quite the sarcastic character so it took me a little while to get used to the tone. He even had a blog that gives a bit more context to some of the book’s content.

Side note: I liked that Peter Grant is actually a mixed-race dude with African roots – the way race and gender is treated is quite refreshing and it adds some character to the story without being turned into some sort of race commentary or caricature.

London Work Trip - Thames London Eye
And I leave you with a picture of me and the Thames river, who (and not which) play a pretty big part in the book

In case you’re getting a hankering for London as well, check out my London Street Art post as well as my fangeeking out about Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes and Neverwhere in London.

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2014 Round Up – Writingshttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/12/29/2014-round-writings/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/12/29/2014-round-writings/#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16388 Besides looking back at my travels in 2014, another thing I like to take stock of is my writing for the year – This year I have quite a lot of posts that I’m quite proud of! I will have to admit that I wrote a lot less in 2014, especially towards the second half [...]

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Besides looking back at my travels in 2014, another thing I like to take stock of is my writing for the year – This year I have quite a lot of posts that I’m quite proud of!

I will have to admit that I wrote a lot less in 2014, especially towards the second half of the year. I just can’t seem to write as quickly and easily as before – coming up with good posts definitely takes a lot of work! On some inspired weekends I can finish about 2-3 blogposts if I’m not doing anything else, but on average each blogpost takes a couple of hours in total on top of the actual writing, which usually includes research, photo editing and inspiration. My latest tablet acquisition (the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 if you’re interested, I have about that in due time) has definitely helped in blogging on the go and on trips too.

But sometimes you just want to enjoy your trip and get away from behind the screen, even if it’s just staring out the train window and switching off your brain for awhile, y’know?

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy writing for the blog immensely – writing blogposts really straightens out the thoughts in my head and the research helps me appreciate my trips and learn so much more. So 2015 will definitely be about finding that balance – regular posts to keep my writing sharp and get my stories out, but with enough wiggle room that I can still have a life beyond it. Right now we’re looking at around 1-2 times a week, down from 3 times a week previously. On that note, not-blogging also annoys me, so it definitely won’t be too quiet.

But anyway, here we go with a recap of some of my favourite stories from this past year!

 

The Day I Forgot To Travel (And How I Learned To Remember)
This picture was taken back in 2012 with my dear Unholies back in the Liwa Desert. I still remember the sand dunes very fondly, and have J to thank for the amazing photos we came away with

January produced what I’ve been calling my ‘origin story’ (I can’t believe I wrote this in 2014, somehow it feels like I wrote it ages ago!), this post took me quite some effort to churn out, but I’m really proud of it, I think it’s some of my better writing and more importantly, it tells a story about me and who I am as The Occasional Traveller. Also, I’m quite fond of that super long title :P Thanks again to the folk from Planet D Dave and Deb for this excellent series about inspirational travellers on their blog – it’s a really good read!

Read it here: The Day I Realized I Forgot to Travel (And How I Learned To Remember)

 

Singapore Seas
You know you’re reaching Singapore when you fly over all the berthed ships in our waters!

In February I edited and reposted an initial piece I did as writing class homework for MatadorU about my thoughts on Singapore as my home. It’s technically 2 years old, but it seems to have held up pretty well. Perhaps one of my more personal pieces.

Read it here: My Heart is at Home, My Heart is in Singapore

 

5 Trips you really need to take in your 20s
How can you not love this picture. It’s one of my main sliders so I see it all the time, but it never fails to crack me up.

My birthday post in March, or the omg-how-am-i-30-years-old post 5 trips in your 20s had actually sat in my drafts for many, many months. Every so often, I would pop open that draft and tweak it a little, so by the time it actually reached the time to post (i.e. my birthday), it was about as good as I could have written it. Unfortunately I don’t have that same sort of luxury with most of my posts… My favourite part of writing this blogpost was discovering the piggybacking sheep photo while looking for a suitable photo to summarize budget backpacking – I try to find eye-catching photos that match the article and not flood you with all of my own selfies, so finding this was like JACKPOT.

Read it here: 5 Trips You Really Need to Take in Your 20s

 

Where to find street art in George Town Penang
Two stealthy rats (factoid: I’m born in the year of the rat according to the Chinese zodiac. I can’t believe I didn’t make that connection/pun earlier)

I don’t really have a favourite post from April and it was a really busy travel month for me then, so here’s another one from March which has been making the rounds on the internet based on my stats, and I’m actually quite proud of this because this was my first super comprehensive street art guide which spawned those that came after. This one is a little outdated now though, I have to go back to see the new street art they’ve put up!

Read it here: Where to find street art in George Town, Penang

 

Shanghai Zhang Yuan Pole Holders
Visiting Zhang Yuan and learning about shikumen from a local expat expert made me think about how well I know my own city

My pick for April was initially a toss up between my musing about solo travel not being the must-do for all travellers versus my 48-hr guide to Shanghai, but in the end I decided that my piece on Shanghai’s shikumen trumps the other two because it was a rather different experience from your usual tours and it did give me some local insight, something I definitely wouldn’t have been able to get on my own.

Read it here: Shikumen in Shanghai – a Peek at Zhang Yuan

 

My Dad the Pilot - Vintage photo
All vintage sepia toned and rounded corners

June involved a week-long overseas work trip so writing was a little sparse, but I guess this post about my late Dad is my favourite because, well… duh it’s my Dad~ and also because the photo is so vintage-y and kinda awesome.

Read it here: My Dad the Pilot – a vintage photo from the family archives

 

Jac Appreciating Art
trying to figure out art can be an overwhelming business

July saw this post about art appreciation, which is something quite close to my heart and while I currently work in the arts for a living, I really don’t have that much arts and culture in my background. It’s just not something my family is in to, and I spent my schooling years mostly as a sportsperson, so some of these art things I encounter at work really go right over my head. Travel did help, as I do think that cultural discovery is an important part to understanding a place, and just wanted to tell the fellow bumpkins like me that it really isn’t as high-faluting as you might imagine it to be. Also, this post’s title is in running with the January post as one of my all-time favourites.

Read it here: The Art of Appreciating Art When You Know Nothing About Art

 

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Muay Thai Fight
I can still feel the sweat spraying towards me, right there in the front row!

My favourite August post would be the one about watching a real Muay Thai match, and I guess I have to thank the two guys who decided to set it up in the first place as it wasn’t part of the original FAM trip itinerary, and of course congratulate myself for being a little thick-skinned and tagging along because it was a really memorable part of my trip!

Read it here: Catching a live Muay Thai fight at Rajadamnern Stadium

 

Travel at Home - Globe
When your only form of travel involves staring at a globe…

Travelling Occasionally is a more personal section of the blog because it’s more of my own musings than travel tips. This post in September about keeping the feeling of travel alive when you aren’t travelling was borne out of my wanderlust – I had a pretty intense second quarter of the year, and suddenly I was stuck for three months solid with an intense workload and no travelling. As always, a lot of the posts are aimed at myself really, reminding myself and others like me to take stock of our lives and work with what we have.

Read it here: When Life Keeps You Down – How To Travel Without Leaving Home

 

Portugal - Lagos Street Art Aryz
One of my favourite photos – the thing about solo travel is you just don’t get awesome pix of yourself like this – I call this my blogger at work photo (Thanks Y)

I finally headed on my long trip to Portugal in October, and upon returning I put together this post on street art in Lagos, Portugal quite quickly as it was still very fresh in my memories, and it has gone even more viral than my old record holder How to Piss Off a Singaporean (possibly because because there are just a lot more people interested in Portugal than there are in Singapore)! I spent quite a lot of time looking for information during and after the trip to put this baby together, so it is gratifying that so many people think that it’s a post worth sharing.

Read it here: Stumbling upon street art in Lagos, Portugal

 

Portugal - Lisbon Roman Galleries Shadow Wall
What exactly are roman galleries? I will admit my understanding is still a bit hazy, even after research!

November produced another favourite from the Portugal posts, this one about my visit to the rarely opened Roman Galleries in Lisbon. I was quite excited to write about this because it was a really unusual event that I chanced upon on my trip – I didn’t even know this place existed! I do like the tourist spots, but unusual local experiences definitely get me more excited about writing. I have a bunch of posts that have been in my drafts for the longest time because I loved my experiences on those trips, but they weren’t particularly unusual like this was.

Read it here: A rare chance to enter the Roman Galleries of Lisbon

 

December was pretty sparse with writing, because my brain is in holiday mood (still) so I’ve been trying to stay motivated, though not as successfully as I would like. I shall cut myself some slack and not include a favourite post here, though looking at my archives, street art was very much on my mind.

And that’s it for 2014 folks, here’s to a brand new 2015 ahead! If you have any favourite posts of mine from the past year, fill free to let me know, I’d love to know what you guys want to see more (or less) of here!

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Living La Vida Lagoshttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/12/24/things-to-do-in-lagos-portugal/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/12/24/things-to-do-in-lagos-portugal/#comments Wed, 24 Dec 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16163 I didn't know what to expect from Lagos, Portugal, but I ended up having the most amazing food and beach experience there!

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Portugal - Lagos Sign
Welcome to Lagos!

When deciding where I wanted to visit in Portugal, I knew that besides the main cities of Lisbon and Porto, I did want to head down to the Algarve to see what it was all about. The southern end of Portugal is renowned for its seaside towns and popular among the summer holidaying crowd, but I honestly had no idea what I would see there.

I didn’t have a lot of time, so I picked two spots to check out – the first of which was Lagos on the Western side of the Algarve. Why Lagos when there are so many towns I could have picked from? In part I was a little curious about what my friend Julika had experienced there, and also there was a direct bus from Lisbon to Lagos, so why not?

Portugal - Lagos Bus Station
I took Eva Bus 92 which took 4 hours in total from the Rede Expressos Bus Station in Lisbon to Lagos

The Algarve definitely has its own distinct vibe that you don’t get in Lisbon and Porto. It was here there I got a pretty good tan and spent most of my time on the beach, which was a nice change from the rainy days in both Lisbon and Porto. I was very happy to spend most of my time wandering around in a sleeveless dress and my slippers!

Portugal - Lagos Goncalo Statue
This saint apparently gives the fishermen protection

If you’re headed up to Lagos, here are some tips on where to go and what to do based on my experience. Definitely don’t miss the street art of course, but here’s what else you can find in the historic centre of Lagos:

 

LIVING THE HOSTEL LIFE IN JJ’S YARD

We stayed in JJ’s Yard which I found off HostelWorld. Me and Y stayed in a private room for 2, which was located in a separate house about 3 mins walk down the street from the main hostel building. It was probably the smallest room I stayed in the entire trip, but also the cheapest at 23 euros for a private twin room with a shared bathroom. I would probably have preferred something bigger and a little fancier with a bit more space, but if you’re someone who’s happy enough with clean, no frills accommodation at a good price, it definitely is a decent place to stay.

Portugal - Lagos JJs Yard Outside
Here’s our house from the outside – our room was the window on the left of the door. The main building where the reception is is in another building in the street behind me. When you ring the bell here, it summons someone over from the other house.
Portugal - Lagos JJs Yard Living Room
The living room where we ended up spending a lot of time at because our room was so tiny. You’ll notice most of the photos are wide angle shots because there really wasn’t much space to back up to get a decent shot otherwise!
Portugal - Lagos JJs Yard Room
with both our luggage on the floor, there wasn’t much room for moving around! I took the top bunk
Portugal - Lagos JJs Yard Window
the street gets a high amount of traffic, but surprisingly it didn’t wake us up in the morning. Thankfully also there’s a fan for air circulation
Portugal - Lagos JJs Yard Bathroom
this is the bathroom on the 2nd level. there was a toilet (no showers) on the first floor where we were.

Owner Jay is a big surfer himself so you can convince him to recommend or even go with you to some of the best surf spots in town. He also had several very good recommendations on places to visit and eat at in town – I swear the best food we had in Portugal was in Lagos! More on that further down in the post….

JJ’s is also quite a sociable place – they have arrangements with pubs around the area for discounts, and often Jay will pop by and ask you to join him and other hostelites for a night out – Lagos is also popular among the student set for its partying, so that’s great if it’s your thing.

JJ’s Yard
Travessa do Forno, Lagos 10

 

THE LAGOS COASTLINE

Portugal - Lagos Dona Ana Beach
Dona Ana beach on the right. The entire coastline is made up of these little coves

You will definitely want to spend some time exploring the Lagos coastline. You can do it by walking along the cliffs – head up the Avenida dos Descobrimentos and look for the cliffside paths and staircases that lead down to the many beaches that dot the coastline. Lagos’s coastline has many hidden nooks and crannies, and the further afield you explore, the quieter the beaches get. I’m pretty sure there was some nude suntanning happening in some of these coves which I saw from far off…

Portugal - Lagos Coastline Cliff Paths
the paths you find are mostly natural ones, worn down by other people.

As you walk along along the cliffs, you will also see mostly man-made paths which you can follow and enjoy a fantastic view of the coast while you are at it. Be careful though, they usually aren’t barricaded in any way, so don’t get too adventurous especially when you’re distracted taking photos of the wonderful scenery.

Portugal - Lagos Dona Ana Beach Seagull
We took a break on Praia Dona Ana, or Dona Ana beach – we are in the shade which tends to be less crowded because everyone else is chasing sun rays. I… prefer not to get burnt.

You could walk all the way to Ponta de Piedade which is the pointy end of the headland, or if you’re adventurous even walk to Praia Porto de Mos on the other side of the headline. We only made it as far to Praia Dona Ana before deciding to turn back. My favourite beach was probably the little cove of Estudantes, just off Praia Batata.

Portugal - Lagos Batata Beach Cave Entrance
Some of the beaches are connected through little tunnels
Portugal - Lagos Batata Beach in water
Here I am trying to get into the water. it was COLD. I didn’t get in any deeper than what you see here!
Portugal - Lagos Batata Beach Pose
Y was a little braver, clambering out to a further rock and striking a very pretty pose for me.

 

Portugal - Lagos Fort Anchor
horsing around in front of the Fort with this giant anchor

Another great way to enjoy the coastline is from the water itself – we checked out some boat tours and prices around the Solaria area, but ended up doing what Jay recommended, which was heading down to this quite makeshift looking table at the waterfront close to the entrance of the fort. These people at the table speak good English and will link you up with one of several boatmen who are pottering around the area waiting for customers.

Portugal - Lagos Coastline Boat Sign Up
Look out for this rather makeshift looking set up

These boatmen each have their own little boat, and they’ll take you out for a private tour of the coastline for 12.50 euros that lasts about an hour up and down the coastline from Solaria to Ponta de Piedade. You can negotiate to go further out or for a longer time.

Portugal - Lagos Coastline Boat Dock
The boatmen sit in their little boats on the water. When the table crew whistles them over, they start up their boats and putt-putt over to pick up their customers.
Portugal - Lagos Coastline Boatman
Here’s our excellent boatman. You can tell he’s been at it for a long time with his expert boathandling!

Having a small boat is key, because that’s the only way you can weave in and out of the little grottos and get up close to the cliffs. These boatmen are locals and while our guide didn’t speak any English, he was an excellent boat captain – even with the choppy current that day, we barely got wet as he piloted us so smoothly around the rocks. He did point out some funny rock formations like the ‘Elephant’ and ‘Camel’ and we saw a mini blowhole too.

Portugal - Lagos Coastline Grotto Boat
That’s another more crowded small boat weaving in to the grottos. Larger boat tours park their boats further away and send the smaller boats in for exploration.
Portugal - Lagos Coastline Grotto Cave
Inside one of the caves
Portugal - Lagos Coastline Natural Arch
Passing under a natural arch
Portugal - Lagos Coastline Blowhole
A mini blowhole – I love the eerie blue light, which is really the sun shining through the hole. You can’t see it spouting here though.
Portugal - Lagos Coastline Boatman Selfie
Obligatory selfie with Y and me and our boatman in the background

 

 

THE BEST PORTUGUESE FOOD OF THE TRIP

The sea-side towns of the Algarve are of course renowned for having amazing seafood beyond the ubiquitous Bacalhau (Cod) that is eaten throughout Portugal (funny fact: the cod is actually shipped in from Scandinavia – you can’t actually find cod in the waters here even if the Portuguese have a 1000 recipes for this fish). The food in Lagos was definitely some of the best from my entire trip! We have good ol’ Jay to thank again for these great recommendations at a reasonable price.

Restaurante Ala do Castelo

Portugal - Lagos Ala Do Castelo Outside
Restaurante Ala do Castelo from the outside. We sat just inside the doorway. All the lighting inside was tinted red for some reason.

Restaurante Ala do Castelo is on a less crowded road of Lagos, away from the main tourist stretch so its surroundings are nice and quiet. We decided on seafood and ordered a ‘dose’ (that’s how they describe it) of fresh little clams, another dose of prawns which came in a really tasty sauce and a codfish dish with chickpeas. We had 2 jugs of Sangria while waiting – be prepared to wait though, the food takes really long to prepare – i think we waited for almost an hour, but it was quite awesome when it finally arrived.

Portugal - Lagos Ala do Castelo Food
The fish with veg and chickpeas on the left, prawns in the middle and lots of little clams on the right

Restaurante Ala do Castelo
Rua Castelo dos Governadores no. 40

 

Casinha do Petisco

Portugal - Lagos Casinha Cataplana Close up
Close up of Home style Cataplana, mmhmmm

Another place recommended by Jay was Casinha do Petisco – it’s a very small place over at Rua de Oliveira that sits perhaps 30-40 guests at a time and it was full when we first arrived at about 7pm, so we left a reservation and headed back to shower first. We returned later at 8pm and the place was still full, so despite our ‘reservation’, we only got our place at 845pm. Either come here really early or really late to ensure you don’t have to wait too long!

The food here was my favourite of all the things I ate in Portugal, mostly because of the homestyle Cataplana dish, which is basically a very tasty soup stew consisting of pork, clams and prawns. While the menu says it’s meant for 2 people, I’m pretty sure I could have fed my whole family of 5-6 pax with it! We were completely stuffed after this meal. We also had a starter of melon soaked in port wine, mmh. The kitchen here is open-style and the chef was really friendly, always checking in to see how the guests were doing.

Portugal - Lagos Casinha Port Melon
melon slices soaked in port wine – it’s a really nice mix together
Portugal - Lagos Casinha Cataplana
CATAPLANA! That also refers to the silver bowl that the dish is cooked in. Our dish was served with BOTH chips and rice (which was really tasty)

Casinha do Petisco
Rua da Oliveira no. 51

Have you been down to Lagos, Portugal? What did you enjoy doing there?

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2014 Round Up – Travelshttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/12/17/2014-round-travels/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/12/17/2014-round-travels/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16389 A look back at the past year and where I've been to. 52 days of overseas travel with a full time day job and just 18 days of leave? Here's how I managed to maximize travel in 2014

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TOT Round Up 2014

It’s that time of the year where I take a look back at how and where I’ve travelled this year. It’s always fun to reminisce and see where I’ve been so far, and see how I might be able to squeeze in my travel in the year ahead!

Penang
Penang, Malaysia – Getting up close and personal with Ernest Zacharevic’s works in George Town

The first trip of 2014 was a short one up to Penang mainly to eat, eat, and eat. It was also the first place that I really started taking interest in hunting street art as a way to explore a place. See the Penang recap here>>

 

Bali with Family
Bali, Indonesia – en route to the Rock Temple where I got blessed for good luck!

I spent my 30th birthday in Bali once again, but this time with my family. It was my 3rd trip to this little island paradise in 2 years. We stayed in quite an awesome villa in Seminyak, but besides lazing on the beach, I got to see Ubud as well as some of the famous temples on this island. More on Bali here>>

 

Margaret River
Margaret River, Australia – awesome wine and amazing sunsets

The Easter holiday in April was spent down in Margaret River and Perth with my friend S, where we stayed on a remote but charming house in a vineyard, and spent most of it in places no telephone network could reach (grapevines eat telephone signals I swear~) indulging in a lot of good wine and great food. See more Margaret River stories here>>

 

Shanghai
Shanghai, China – it absolutely poured on the first day we were there, thank goodness i brought my boots

Then a quick weekend jaunt up to Shanghai, my first trip to China ever, with a bunch of other bloggers thanks to Spring Airlines. We spent a rainy day exploring this city together and eating xiaolongbaos and visiting a rather interesting Korean-style bathhouse, and also meeting another blogger based in Shanghai who introduced me to the wonderful architecture of local Shikumen. More on Shanghai here >>

 

Phuket Mai Khao
Mai Khao, Phuket, Thailand – I barely left the resort, spending most of it lounging by the beach and pool, or doing fun stuff like painting my own batik shirt!

The second quarter was absolutely packed – the weekend after that I found myself headed to Phuket, another new place for me (I’d only been to Bangkok before this) with the girls where we chillaxed over the weekend thanks to Holiday Inn Mai Khao resort. Mai Khao is pretty close to the airport and a lovely quiet part of Phuket, I would definitely consider going back there again. More on Thailand here >>

London Work Trip
London, UK – The British Museum is not only mostly free, it has an amazing ceiling and space!

June saw me heading up to London for my first ever working trip overseas – the good thing about my jobs in the arts is that even the work bits were quite fun as we got to explore quite a bit of London’s art scene, so I was quite happy not to be stuck in boardrooms or offices all day! I found even more street art, favourite literary landmarks and went to a lot of markets. More London stories here >>

Bangkok FAM trip
Ayutthaya, Thailand – this buddha head in the roots is quite a fascinating sight

The Tourism Authority of Thailand then invited me up to Bangkok for a huge Happiness party to show that Bangkok remains an amazing place to visit despite all their recent struggles with protests earlier in the year. I had the opportunity to visit the old capital of Ayutthaya and also got to watch my first live Muay Thai match. More on Bangkok here >>

Portugal
Lagos in the Algarve was a bit of a revelation – I had amazing food and saw some tremendously street art talent here. Here… I’m just kinda goofing around in the sun…

Finally after what felt like eons, I took off for my annual big trip – a semi-solo adventure to Portugal, where I spent a lovely 16 days travelling around Lisbon, the Algarve and Porto. I love the vibe of Portugal which has great history and amazing street art throughout the country, and in comparison to some other countries is actually a more affordable place to visit. I definitely have so much to write about which I haven’t quite gotten to yet! More on Portugal here >>

Patong Phuket
Phuket, Thailand – Patong is on the opposite end of the spectrum from quiet Mai Khao! The drain covers were also fascinatingly pretty.

And finally the last trip for 2014 was a short one with another group of girlfriends back to Phuket again for a hen’s weekend getaway. We stayed in a luxurious villa in Kamala on the central western coast, and I finally got to see firsthand what the notorious Patong Beach area was like (Spoiler: I didn’t love it). More Phuket stories here >>

 

So that’s my summary for the year – I apparently managed to spend 52 days travelling with my 18 days of leave! I’m pretty impressed with myself~

  • Feb: Penang, Malaysia – Eat and Relax trip (3D2N)
  • Mar: Bali, Indonesia – Family trip (4D3N)
  • Apr: Margaret River, Australia – Road trip (5D4N)
  • Apr: Shanghai, China – Spring Airlines FAM trip (4D3N)
  • May: Phuket, Thailand – Holiday Inn Mai Khao FAM trip (3D2N)
  • Jun: London, United Kingdom – Work trip (9D9N)
  • Jul: Bangkok, Thailand – Thailand FAM trip (4D3N)
  • Sep/Oct: Portugal – Semi-solo trip (17D16N)
  • Nov: Phuket, Thailand – Hen’s Weekend (3D2N)

The work trip to London definitely helped make that number so much higher than last year’s 38 days! Even if you take that number out, 42 days is still a pretty good number considering I only have 18 days of leave :) I definitely made full use of weekends and public holidays like Good Friday and Hari Raya to help increase my travelling days.

Most of the trips were nearby jaunts around Asia within 5 hours flight from Singapore, except for London and Portugal, so that made it easier to take many short trips in anticipation of my long Portugal trip. I had booked the Portugal trip quite early on, in the first quarter of the year, so while that made planning easier and saved me a load on airfare, it also means that I couldn’t go for some FAM trips that cropped up last minute or mid-week as my leave was all tied up already. Ah well, you can’t have it all~

 

Trips in 2015

I haven’t actually made any plans for 2015. Which is a little bit odd for me, feeling so untethered…

I definitely want to go diving earlier in the year – there was no dive trip this year so had to break that yearly tradition and I’m starting to feel like I need to get underwater.

There have been quite a lot of interesting chats with tourism boards and travel companies in partnership to help them promote their destinations, and I’m crossing my fingers that some of these will result in opportunities to visit amazing places that I might not think to visit on my own.

And as usual there are just so many places to go! My bucket list is ever growing, but some places that are on the top of that list include Iceland, Istanbul, Croatia, Galapagos Islands, Azores… there is so much to see!

 

How were your 2014 travels like? And where are you headed in 2015? Share here and inspire us all!

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Local Food Experiences with Traveling Spoonhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/12/10/traveling-spoon-review/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/12/10/traveling-spoon-review/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16237 A review on Traveling Spoon, a service offering travellers a home cooked meal and local experience around Asia. Here's my Singapore experience!

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Part of the travelling experience is to go somewhere new and try eating something foreign. it’s one key way to learn about the culture of the place that you’re in, and often a great way to make friends as most people become more open and friendly with a snack or drink in hand.

Portugal - Tavira Restaurant Avenida V
Food makes friends – me and V from Netherlands here bonded over looking for a dinner buddy in Tavira and we ended up at a very good local Portuguese restaurant. The next day, we ran into a fellow dutch lady over dinner at another restaurant. More on Tavira soon!

So when the folk from Traveling Spoon approached me about their service, which offers travellers a home dining and/or cooking experience with a local in Asia, I was quite intrigued. It’s a chance for you to taste some local cuisine as well as interact with a local – which is quite the authentic experience many travellers are looking for these days beyond the tour packages!

Since I was in Singapore and not headed overseas anytime soon, Traveling Spoon matched me up with the current local host, a lady named Rosaline Soon who turned out to be quite a famous cook locally, having run her own restaurant in the past, she has since published three cookbooks to her name and conducts cooking classes as well.

What I liked was the personal touch – Rosaline herself dropped me a note to say hello before the session, giving me instructions on how to get to her place (deep in a residential area in Singapore, which thankfully wasn’t too far from where I live myself) and letting me know the menu for the night.

Traveling Spoon - Rosaline
Me and Rosaline in her home kitchen
Traveling Spoon - Grandmothers Recipe Books
Grandmothers’ Recipes are based on local and Peranakan dishes, and specially made to be fairly easy to cook

The Traveling Spoon experience is made up of 3 tracks:

  1. just enjoying a home cooked meal (US$20-60)
  2. adding a cooking lesson to the home cooked meal (US$40-$100)
  3. or going the full shebang with a market tour prior to your cooking session and meal. (US$80-$170)

Since I was coming after work in the evening, no market tour for me, and while I am not much of a cook, I thought I’d try the cooking lesson just for fun.

 

THE EXPERIENCE

This meal was a real homey experience – Rosaline’s family was finishing up their dinner when I entered their house. She has a large kitchen with a nice island counter, and she had set up most of the prep before I arrived. She was a very nice affable sort, and we had a lot of chitchat while she showed me the ingredients and preparation method for the food – she prepared a little set of recipes on which I could take notes and bring home with me as well.

But here’s the more exciting part on what we ended up making – she based the menu on the food from her own Peranakan and Singaporean heritage: Nyonya Laksa, Roast Pork, Ngoh Hiang and Ondeh Ondeh. My own heritage is more Hokkien, so frankly while I knew most of these foods, I didn’t eat them very often myself, so it was quite nice learning about how to make them, which definitely helped in me appreciating the food better.

Traveling Spoon - Nyonya Laksa ingredients
Nyonya Laksa is basically a noodle in a spicy soup. The main thing is getting the soup right, which is what most of the ingredients here are for
Traveling Spoon - Nyonya Laksa
Here’s my laksa, yummy! I requested it not to be too spicy and not to have the beansprouts (hate), so it was pretty awesome.
Traveling Spoon - Roast Pork cooking
This roast pork dish was designed to be extremely simple – all you need is a good slap of pork, lots of salt and a toaster over, no marination required!
Traveling Spoon - Roast Pork
This tasted very, very good! I ate so much of this >_<
Traveling Spoon - Ngoh Hiang making
Ngoh Hiang consists of minced pork and onions wrapped in beancurd skin. Rosaline had prepped the stuffing first, so I mainly helped with the assembly.
Traveling Spoon - Ngoh Hiang cooked
Tastes better than it looks! You often find this sold alongside prawn noodle stalls in Singapore for some reason
Traveling Spoon - Ondeh Ondeh making
Dessert was ondeh-ondeh, which is little balls of fried flour mixed with tapioca or sweet potato and stuffed with some gula melaka. I never had this before and had a lot of fun making it – making it is tougher than you might imagine!
Traveling Spoon - Ondeh Ondeh cooked
The ondeh ondeh is rolled in coconut grating after cooking, a nice way to end the evening! I’m not a big fan of Gula Melaka and Coconut honestly, but this tasted pretty good

 

All in all, I really enjoyed the experience and I think it’s a great addition to your itinerary when overseas – if you’re tired of searching out your own food or eating tour package meals, it’s a great and easy way to get the authentic local experience. Also, the meal and cooking session took about 2-2.5 hours in total, so you still have lots of time for your own adventures and experiences.

You can do it alone like I did, but I’d recommend doing this in a group if possible, because you can possibly save a little bit of money, and you can make and eat more – I had to pack some of the remaining food back home so as not to waste it! Also, cooking and dining is always much more fun in a group setting. Drop them a note here for more enquiries – they’ll look at your requirements and match you up with the best host available.

Best of all my dear readers, if you’re interested in signing up for a package, type in theoccasionaltraveller10 to receive a 10% discount on any experience booked before January 31 2015 – take this as my Christmas present to you!

Head on over to TravelingSpoon.com for more – their regions so far are concentrated in the major Asian cities, but look out for more hosts and locations in 2015! They’ve just launched recently in Singapore and they are upgrading the site as well, exciting stuff ahead! Thank you again to Traveling Spoon for sponsoring my experience, I really enjoyed it and I might give it a try if I head to any of the other countries with host too!

Traveling Spoon: Travel off the Eaten Path from Traveling Spoon on Vimeo.

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Where to find Street Art in Lisbonhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/12/08/find-street-art-lisbon/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/12/08/find-street-art-lisbon/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16156 A detailed guide on various spots where you can find street art in Lisbon and how to get there on your own.

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The simple answer to where you can find street art in Lisbon – just about anywhere you can imagine!

Lagos and Porto both had amazing artworks in their street, but for sheer volume, variety and star power, Lisbon is where you can find stuff from some of the best street artists in Portugal and the world. I managed to find some random wonders by just wandering the streets, but I also managed a more curated viewing through maps and a guided tour. I love how hunting for street art has become such a great and fun way to explore and understand a city!

Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Aryz Horse
Portugal – Lisbon Street Art Aryz Horse

Here are some spots in Lisbon to check out for a good dose of street art – this is by no means an exhaustive or definitive guide of Lisbon’s street art works, merely just a recap of some of the places I visited and see some of the awesome art that I saw – there were plenty of places left unexplored. Sometimes you come across the coolest things most unexpectedly, like this great Vhils exhibition in Belem that I stumbled upon… till next time perhaps? :)

 

RESOURCES

Most of the time I google a destination to decide on some obvious must-sees like I did with Lagos, but it was a little impossible with Lisbon just because there is so much going on, so I made use of a couple of resources:

Portugal - Lisbon Street Art GAU Liberdade
Oops you can’t see Gabriela, but here’s when we ran into the group that we missed quite serendipitously!

Lisbon Street Art Tour: This is a great way not just to see some of the good street artworks, but also to learn a little about the street artists and their backgrounds, and a bit of the history of the places that they are found in. Our guide Gabriela was really great, and even though we missed the first half of the tour because we were late, she went out of the way to show us around and even brought us to a more out of the way area to check out works when she found out we were really interested. Currently, the tour is conducted on Wednesdays (11.30am) and Saturdays (4pm) and last about 2-3 hours, with the meeting point at the Luis de Camoes Square (Praca de Camoes). Payment is by donation, usually 10-15 euros on average, though the amount really is up to you.

 

Street Art Lisbon Vol 1
This little book is small and handy and comes with a folded map with all the places in the book marked out

Street Art Lisbon Vol 1: I bought myself this little book from Ler Devagar at LXFactory for 9 euros (I saw it marked up to 18 euros at other smaller shops!) which comes with a handy map cum poster that shows you where to find the works within the book, though remember that with the ephemeral nature of street art, some works might not exist any more! With the map in hand, I could pinpoint whether there were works in the area around me wherever I happened to be.

 

THE SPOTS

Check out my handy Google map where I’ve done my best to mark out the spots so you know where you can head to yourself!

 

GAU / URBAN ART GALLERY

Street art is so important to Lisbon that they set up GAU – Galeria de Arte Urbana or the Urban Art Gallery under the wing of the city’s culture and heritage department as a place for street artists to let loose. Proposals are put forth and those accepted get to translate their ideas onto large billboards set up along the sloping street – these works change very regularly so you’ll always see something different here. There is another long wall on the adjacent street about halfway down the slope which is a more free for all type of wall where people can just let loose.

How to get there: Take the subway to Restauradores and if you’re feeling rather sprightly, walk up the crazy steep slope of Calçada da Glória where you’ll find the works near the top of the slope and on the adjacent Largo da Oliveirinha. If you have a day pass, why not take the very graffiti-ed funicular (which costs 3.60 euros per trip without!) to the top, and then slowly make your way down. Alternatively, approach from the Bairro Alto side of Rua São Pedro de Alcântara. Definitely better to walk down than up this slope!

Portugal - Lisbon Street Art GAU Hill
On top of the hill as we approached from Bairro Alto
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art GAU tram
This place is so steep they have a tram serving it, which is naturally covered with graffiti
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art GAU Last Supper
Various boards like this are set up along the slope, and selected artists get to showcase their works here. Thiis piece is by Portuguese street artist Nomen called A Ultima Ceia aka The Last Soup, which seems to be a bit of a political commentary
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art GAU Oliverinha
This stretch is about halfway down the slope – Largo de Oliverinha – this part isn’t regulated by GAU like it is along the slope
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art GAU Pink Panther
The pink panther is kinda cute
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art GAU In action
Gabriela had some aerosols on hand to let us try our hand at it. How could I resist?
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art GAU Chat
Further down the Largo stretch as we were walking towards the Teatro area is this famous cat by french street artist Monsieur Chat (that’s french for cat) aka M Chat – we would find several of his works scattered across Lisbon!

 

TEATRO MARIA VITORIA / MARIA VITORIA THEATRE

This old theatre district only has one functioning theatre now – the rest of it is like a very large empty parking lot, but within its walls it is both bigger than it looks, as well as contains more street art than you would think. Definitely have to thank the street art walk and Gabriela for bringing us here, I doubt we would have walked here on our own!

How to get there: It was a short walk from GAU – Parque Mayer is off the main Avenida da Liberdade close to the metro station Avenida. You should be able to see the sign for Teatro Maria Vitoria outside, and another sign which points to Restaurant A Gina, which is apparently quite good.

Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Teatro Maria Vittoria Entrance
Entering the theatre district – Teatro Maria Vitoria is the pink building on the right
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Teatro Maria Vittoria Walls
The inside feels like a huge carpark – the walls are covered with street art!
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Teatro Maria Vittoria Pano
Panorama shot of the interior – click on picture for larger view!
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Teatro Maria Vittoria Words
I can’t remember the name of this guy but he apparently usually incorporates some text into his works
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Teatro Maria Vittoria Boat-Chat
M Chat makes another appearance, but I actually like the detailed purple boat by Swiss street artists Sybz and Meyk better! Their piece was done in 2013.
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Teatro Maria Vittoria Girl
Ah I did manage to get Gabriela on camera after all! This giant piece is a little faded as it was done in 2011, but is an awesome international collaborative work by Resone, Mr Dheo, Pariz and Katre. See a nicer pic here.
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Teatro Maria Vittoria Mime
This one and the one above were part of Writers Delight 2011 – this piece is by Wuna, Park, Rak, Esko and Agios. Too bad you can only now see a small part of it now… More here.

 

 

CRONO PROJECT

The Crono Project that happened back in 2010 was one of the events that garnered quite a lot of international attention and placed Lisbon on the top of the street art map, by inviting international names to collaborate with local Portuguese street artists. These works are pretty eye catching and hard to miss if you take the bus from the airport into the main city area.

How to get there: The buildings are located on Avenida Fontes Pereira de Melo. The closest subway station is Picoas on the Verde/green line where the right entrance will put you right next to the building. Alternatively, I walked from Parque station on the Azul/blue line which was about 5 minutes away. There are two more works in the Crono Project which are at other locations – more info at Stick2Target.

Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Crono Project Os Gemeos Blu
Os Gêmeos (aka the twins) from Brazil collaborated with Italian street artist Blu in 2010

 

Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Crono Project Os Gemeos
Os Gemeos are famous for their yellow skinned people – he’s holding a man in a suit as a slingshot!
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Crono Project Blu man
Blu’s piece seems to be a commentary on the environment as a guy wearing a crown with various petrol company logos on it is drinking our of the earth with a straw..
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Crono Project Sam3 Thief
La Noche by Sam3 from Madrid, Spain whose works typically feature a lot of black shadowy figures
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Crono Project
The third building features Italian artist Ericailcane and the English Lucy McLauchlan
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Crono Project Ericailcane Croc
Ericailane or Erica Il Cane likes to do large scale animals
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Crono Project Lucy Mclauchlan
Lucy McLauchlan has quite a distinctive black and white aesthetic  – we also spot M Chat again!

 

AMOREIRAS

This particular spot is for those who really are quite passionate about street art and don’t mind a bit of a workout to get there – big props to Gabriela for bringing us here after the official street art tour tour was over to make up for us missing out on the first half of it! There is a massively long stretch of wall that surrounds an old fortress, which is now entirely covered with street art. It is one of the first places where street art first grew in Lisbon in about 1995 and some of its works have been on its walls for a very long time so its earned its place in Lisbon’s street art history. Gabriela recommended the West side walls along Conselheiro Fernando de Sousa for newer and better works – this stretch is almost 1km long so you can imagine the amount of art here!

How to get there: Amoreiras feels like a suburban area – bunch of fancy hotels in the area and much quieter than the downtown tourist stretch. The closest metro station is Marques de Pombal, but be warned that Avenida Eng. Duarte Pacheco is a really, really long steep hill to climb up, and that’s saying something considering the number of slopes and hills there are in Portugal. You could take a bus – I grabbed a taxi from the nearby Amoreiras Shopping Centre after that because I could not walk any further, so that’s another landmark you can use for directions. The walls run along Rua Artilharia 1, Rua Marques de Fronteira and Conselheiro Fernando de Sousa.

Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Amoeiras Slope
The super steep slope that we climbed!
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Amoeiras Blindfold
It’s hard to illustrate through the pictures just how LONG the stretch of wall is. This is on the East side
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Amoeiras Tupac
Tupac by Aspen
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Amoeiras Mark
Another place, another mark
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Amoeiras West Wall
On the west side
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Amoeiras Nomen
Nomen has quite a number of famous works here – Pray for Portugal came in the wake of the EU crisis
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Amoeiras Puppet
This collab piece by Nomen, Slap and Kurtz is called As Marionetas de Merckel, or Merckell’s puppets – you might recognize German chancellor Angela Merckell as the puppeteer here controlling Portugal’s state leaders…
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Amoeiras Layers
layers upon layers of street art

 

SANTA APOLONIA COASTLINE

I passed this coastal stretch while heading up to the Azulejos Museum in Madre de Deus, and on the way back I decided to drop by to get a closer look at these works. Here you’ll find the larger than life collaborative works of local legend Vhils and Pixelpancho, and Wall Lisbon – Santa Apolonia painted under the Pampero Public Art Project in 2010. After that I walked inland and up towards Lisbon Se and the Castle.

How to get there: Take bus 728, 735, 759,794 and stop at Casa Conto along Avenida Infante Dom Henrique. It’s hard to miss the large collab works on the buildings by the coastline when you travel along this road.

Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Santa Apolonia Wall
warehouses along the coastline
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Santa Apolonia horses
Horses by Jose Carvalho
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Santa Apolonia purple
Works by Tamara Alves and The Super Van
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Santa Apolonia que
Que? – like M Chat, you’ll see a bunch of ‘Que?’ works all around town
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Vhils-Pixelpancho lady-robot
Larger than life Pixelpancho
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Vhils-Pixelpancho Face
Vhils iconic subtractive works in collaboration with Pixelpancho
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Vhils-Pixelpancho Man-Boat
This Vhils-Pixelpancho work is probably one of my favourite art pieces from Lisbon
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Vhils-Pixelpancho man-boat closeup
Close up of the detail – Vhils work is super intricate
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Cane Morto Long
Look out for this work by Italian street artist Cane Morto
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Cane Morto face
Cane Morto’s stuff is a little bit creepy looking
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Copyblogger
How much is this shit? Man, ask my art dealer by Copyart

 

PÁTIO DOM FRADIQUE

Perched right on top of the hill, the castle of Saint George has some pretty amazing views of Lisbon, but on the way down, make sure to look for Patio Dom Fradique. It’s where the remains of the Cerca Velha wall are, and this part of the ruins has been transformed into a rather organic outdoor gallery of sorts with various artworks and graffiti all over.

How to get there: Take Tram 28 or bus 736 up the hill to the Castelo and walk down. This particular spot is on the southeast corner of the hill. Look for Marker #2 Patio Dom Fradique, or if you’re going uphill, look for Beco do Maldonaldo off Rua Sao Tome

 

Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Patio Dom Fradique Plant
Spotted this cute little hungry plant while walking around the Castelo grounds
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Patio Dom Fradique Dont Be Mean
Don’t be mean!
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Patio Dom Fradique Flowers
This sudden burst of floral action is a part of Disoriented Pavilion by Camila Caneque – what looks like a real garden is actually fake flowers
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Patio Dom Fradique Fish
Pretty koi fish
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Patio Dom Fradique Animals
You’ll find a surprising amount of art when you poke your head inside the ruins
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Patio Dom Fradique arch
Entrance to Patio dom Fradique from Beco Do Maldonald
Portugal - Lisbon Street Art Patio Dom Fradique Beco Do Maldonald
Beco Do Maldonald is a stairwell lined with various street art and tags

 

This is just a smidgen of what I managed to find while I was in Lisbon in such a short period of time, so, Drop a note here if you know of any other street art hotspots in Lisbon to share!

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Tis the season of giving to Passports with Purpose 2014http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/12/04/tis-season-giving-passports-purpose-2014/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/12/04/tis-season-giving-passports-purpose-2014/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=16331 Whip out those purses and get bidding, it's time for the annual Passports with Purpose 2014 in support of Sustainable Harvest International!

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If you’ve been splurging on Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales this past weekend, perhaps its time to share the good fortune by giving back. Fortunately, Passports with Purpose is back again this year and it’s one of the donation programmes that I’ve been supporting regularly and I hope you do too!

Every year they gather donations through a raffle, where donors put $10 bids on prizes solicited with the help of the travel blogging community who reached out to their corporate networks to sponsor the prizes, (of which there are several awesome ones I’ll talk about below).

This year, Passports with Purpose is supporting Sustainable Harvest International in Honduras – their mission is to help the rural people in Honduras develop sustainable methods of farming that both help the environment (no more slash and burn, which not only produces crazy pollution but spoils the land!) and help the farmers feed their families as well. More about them here.

Passports With Purpose 2014 Sustainable Harvest International

I donated last year and hosted a prize for Passports with Purpose back in 2012, and while I was unable to secure a prize in time for this round, I still wanted to do my little bit for them, so here’s me asking you to take a little bit of time to check out this little programme.

The fun thing about Passports with Purpose is that it makes donating fun, it’s easy to donate just $10 by sacrificing a fancy coffee or two, and you just might land yourself an even more awesome prize worth up to 10x or even 100x more!

The prizes are pretty awesome – here’s what I’m putting my bids on this year:

Passports With Purpose 2014 Hard Drive
This 2TB hard drive ($139) will come in useful whether you’re a traveller or not! More info at Travel Addicts
Passports With Purpose 2014 Amazon Giftcard
Can’t go wrong with an Amazon Gift Card ($200)! Amazon sells… practically everything! More at Ireland Family Vacations
Passports With Purpose 2014 Homeaway
And one of the biggest value prizes is a $1,000 voucher for vacation rental company HomeAway. More at Momitforward

 

Do check out the catalogue for the full list of prizes and see what catches your fancy, or if you’re just looking to give go here instead. You have till 17 Dec 2014, so hurry!

Passports with Purpose

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