Fish Spa with Siew Mei

 

100 toothless fish nibbling on my feet for 30 minutes? Yes please…sign me up for that!

One of the things I’ve wanted to do while in Singapore, is to experience a fish spa.  Many people say not to do it because most are quite unsanitary but I believe I found the best fish spa on the island…called, “Alleviate” located in a cute shophouse in Chinatown.

It’s significantly more fun to share such an experience with a friend so I asked Siew Mei if she would be up for an adventure and to my delight- she was more than willing!  From the outside it looks quite sketchy…a bright neon sign and dark staircase to climb…hmmm.

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But inside it is cheerful, welcoming, and overlooks the shoppers below.

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Garra Rufa fish are hardy little toothless fish that come from the warm spring waters of Turkey.  They are bottom dwellers and feed on the bacteria and fungus on dead scrappy skin.  They have been known to be useful in treating skin diseases, joint pain, headaches, insomnia, and in producing skin as soft as a baby’s bottom. Because of their abilities to bring health, these little fish are also referred to as “Dr. Fish”. This is what they look like up close:

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Steven Yap owns this quaint little shop and is very entertaining and knowledgable.  He explained how he keeps the highest standard of cleanliness by using a blue light in each tank which kills bacteria.  He comes in very early each day to make sure the tanks are clear and clean.  When we first entered, he washed our feet and examined them to make sure there weren’t any open cuts.

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He told us to take a deep breath, and warned us it would tickle for the first few seconds and then we’d get used to it. It was the strangest, funniest feeling!

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For the next 30 min., while the fish feasted on our feet, Steven taught us about his business, how he cares for the fish, how it all began in Turkey in the 1800’s, when a man jumped in the water, was attacked by hundreds of these little fish, and how he felt great afterwards. The man continued to jump in on a regular basis.  He soon found his skin condition went away. It wasn’t long before others learned of the healing properties that came with allowing the fish to dine on their skin. A man visiting Turkey from Thailand was the first to open a fish spa. Now there are countless fish spas in SE Asia, but few have high standards of cleanliness, like Steven’s shop. It is quite expensive to run a fish spa with high standards. Steven needs to bring in 16 customers daily to cover the $14,000 monthly expenses, which includes continually having new fish shipped from Turkey.

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After examining our beautifully groomed feet, Siew Mei and I walked around China Town, stopping to enjoy some local Chinese sweets including red bean pudding and almond pudding, and a traditional sweet called Wife Cake, which is a pastry with a sweet center.  Traditionally, a groom would deliver this to his bride at her home prior to the wedding.  Siew Mei fondly remembers her husband, Wai Wah, delivering her Wife Cake years ago!  This is what one looks like:

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This is Kaya Toast, a fried, breaded base with a sweet topping:

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We also tried some savory pastries like Curry Puff and BBQ pork buns. Really good.

We then stopped in a Chinese herb shop and she told me about how her mother used to use Chinese herbs for any and all ailments. Smart woman!

I had such a fun day with my dear friend Siew Mei.  We walked and talked in the hot sun, while dabbing the sweat from our faces along the way.

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Thank you, Siew Mei, for the precious memories, and mostly for your friendship!

 

Birthday in Bali

Here’s to the end of my writing hiatis.   In September, following our trip to Bali, Indonesia, I began an online course to become a Certified Health Coach. As a reult, writing has taken a back seat.  However, much has happened in our lives and I now have about 10 blogs waiting to be written!  I realized I still hadn’t finished writing about this trip so that’s what I’ll focus on today.

In my last blog, I shared our experience hiking to the top of an active volcano to watch the sunrise on our last day.  We both agree that was the highlight of our trip, but there are many other things we enjoyed as well.

We stayed at the Westin in Nusa Dua, a lovely hotel on the beach surrounded by plenty of great restaurants.

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imageThe walk-way next to the water (see above) extends for miles along the ocean, with restaurants and hotels all along the way. We loved walking along the beach, especially at night.

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The courtyard in our hotel…

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Local merchants walk up and down the beach selling their wares to tourists:

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Dan found a couple opportunities to break out some cool frisbee moves:

A foreign sign to Minnesotans!

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We took a taxi to find some great local food…

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Fantastic Indonesian Satay!

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The next day we hired a driver to take us to Ubud- a couple hours drive from Nusa Dua to see the Monkey Forest and to have lunch in a rice paddy field. We stopped along the way to tour a factory where they make gold and silver jewelry….

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We passed a traditional Indonesian wedding party along the way:

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We also stopped at a shop to see how they make batik fabrics:

Ubud is a quaint little town with lots of little shops and cafes…

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The Monkey Forest is actually a temple, which somehow we missed when researching it.  We did enjoy seeing the monkeys but it felt very spiritually dark and oppressive so we didn’t stay long.

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After the Monkey Forest we stopped at a local restaurant in a rice paddy field.  It was beautiful- our favorite part of our day in Ubud!  We ate lunch over looking the fields.

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The next day we had a relaxing day at the beach.  We rented a cabana bed, ordered foofy drinks and appetizers and read books. It was a perfect day with a gentle breeze coming off the ocean.

Our stunning view:

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Just hanging out together…

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Bali is absolutely beautiful and a birthday memory I will always cherish.  Thank you Dan…I love you!

 

 

Climbing Mt. Batur

“Climb an active volcano and watch the sunrise while eating eggs cooked in volcanic steam”.  Sounds like a brilliant line item for a bucket list.  Although it wasn’t on my list, I have since added it…because some things just NEED to be checked off a list, right?!  Done.  Boom.

Bali is a small island in Indonesia and a popular wedding and honeymoon destination.  It is beautiful.  I never dreamed we would get a chance to go there but Singapore is less than a 2.5 hour flight away. We left on a Thursday morning, the day after my birthday, and came back on Monday evening- giving us 5 full days to explore. Today I’m going to highlight climbing the volcano; I’ll showcase the rest of our trip next time.

The highlight of the trip came on our last day.  Dan was surprised at my suggestion to climb a volcano, but was gladly on board.  We checked out of our hotel on the beach Sunday afternoon, and  someone picked us up and drove us 2.5 hours to the Sunrise Bali Villa, nestled into a hillside overlooking a beautiful lake and walking distance from the base of Mt. Batur.

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This place had so much character; we loved it!  Here are some more picts leading to our villa:

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And through this cute little doorway…

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…and into our rustic abode.

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The bathroom had a tree growing through the ceiling.  I tried not to think about what might find it’s way in during the night!

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There was a quaint little restaurant overlooking the lake. It’s a different pace of life here.  Even though we were usually the only ones in the restaurant, it would take about 30 min. for each course to arrive. 🙂

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In spite of the incessant chatting between roosters and barking wild dogs we managed to get at least a little sleep before we met our guide and hiking buddies at 3:30 am.  With multiple layers of clothing, water bottles, flashlights, and cameras…we began the trek to the top of Mt. Batur at 4:00am.

Our fearless guide:

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Now, Dan and I hiked the Grand Canyon 5 years ago- 24 miles from rim to rim in 13.5 hours, and though that nearly killed me- I survived.  This volcano is only a 2 hour climb to the top so how hard could it be?! Needless to say, I was not too concerned about the fact that other than taking 38 flights of stairs in our condo a few times in preparation, I really hadn’t trained. Thank the Lord it was only 2 hours, because about 20 minutes in, I thought this climb was going to be the end of me!  It was extremely steep and very rough terrain.  My legs were barely long enough to step up onto many of the huge rocks.  Several sections were too steep to even stop and rest.  There was a long section that consisted of deep lava sand so we would take one step up and slide back a half step. If  Dan and the guide hadn’t literally taken my hand and helped me up, I’m sure I would have fallen right off that volcano into the deep dark abyss. The guide was great  – after each short rest he would say, “5 more minutes, then we rest, ok”?” Those bite size goals sustained me…along with lots of prayer! 🙂 Dan thinks I’m exagerating, but I’m not.  Really.  Trust me.

Well, I have to say,  it was 100% worth the pain!  We reached the top just before 6:00am.  It was still dark as we put our eggs and bananas in a little crevice full of volcanic steam.  While they cooked, we waited and watched as the sun rose from behind another distant volcano.

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It was frigid at the top, so we huddled together while soaking in God’s glorious and majestic beauty!

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We hiked with this young couple from CA, although she is Balinese. I took comfort in the fact that though they were 20+ years younger than me, they huffed and puffed their way to the top as well!  Dan?  Well, he’s a beast.  He could have jogged to the top.

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Time to eat eggs!

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We took a different path back down to the bottom.  It was not as steep or rocky.  In fact, much of it was very deep volcanic sand so we “skiied” down the volcano!  I fell three times, but only sustained a small flesh wound. 🙂 We met some wild monkeys on the way down and I got to feed one.

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We stopped several times to empty our shoes of volcanic sand.

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We finally reached the bottom of Mt. Batur by 9:00am.  Even though this climb seriously challenged my abilities, I am so thankful we did it.  We were both richly blessed by the magnificence of God’s beauty and majesty as we watched Him paint the sky before us.

“The heavens declare the glory of the Lord.  The skies proclaim the work of His hands”. Psalm 19:1

Mooncake Festival

Dan and I tasted our first mooncake yesterday!

Normally, we would be enjoying autumn in Minnesota right now.  It is my favorite season, where fall’s cold brush repaints the tree tops almost overnight.  I love the crisp air, sweaters, picking apples at an apple orchard (followed by homemade apple crisp, apple cider, and apple pies), hayrides, bonfires, and warm gingerbread lattes.

This year, we get to celebrate the Singaporean way- the Mid-Autumn Festival.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, or Mooncake Festival, is a 1000 year old tradition and the Chinese version of “Thanksgiving”.  It is a month-long celebration  from September 12th through October 16th. Chinese families from around the world gather during this festive month over fragrant tea and festive goodies, such as mooncakes and pomelos to celebrate unity, harmony, and togetherness.

Mooncakes are small, 2-4 inch round dense cakes, usually made out of nuts, fruits, a sweet bean or lotus seed paste, and a salted egg yolk in the center to symbolize the full moon.

Our new friends, Daniel and Jina Lee (godly, sweet newlyweds), came over for dinner last night and brought us a mooncake. 😄

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I have to admit I was skeptical that it would taste good when she told me the ingredients – but it did!  It is very sweet and rich, so it is eaten in very small slices. Daniel and Jina are from South Korea (but have lived most of their lives in New Zealand until they moved to Singapore about 18 mos. ago) and this festival is celebrated by their families. In Korea, it is a major harvest festival and a 3-day holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the luner calendar- which officially happened to be yesterday!  Daniel & Jina are missing their families and missing out on family celebrations, so we were so happy we could be with them and share in this important part of their culture.

A couple weeks ago, we joined our church in giving away mooncakes to a local poor community. Agape Baptist has been doing this for 18 years and have developed friendships with many of the people living there.  They look forward to and anticipate their visit and mooncake every year. Dan and I really enjoyed teaming up with others from Agape and going door to door delivering the mooncakes and praying for anyone wanting prayer. The real blessing was ours – to be able to show love and kindness to people we had never met.

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening with Daniel and Jina, and even shared a bit of Minnesota with them…homemade apple crisp for dessert!

“Shiok” Singaporean Food Trail

“Shiok!” (pronounced “shook”) is a Singlish term meaning the ultimate satisfaction- especially as it relates to a food experience. I recently joined a group from the AWA on a Singaporean food trail to learn more about local foods.

I especially enjoyed these two delightful sisters from Spain, Almudena and Nuria, so we stuck together for much of the tour.  Almudena and her family just relocated here and her sister Nuria was here for a visit.

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We all boarded a bus with our guide Diana, who took us to the Geylang Serai Market, which is one of the busiest and biggest wet markets in Singapore. This market has been a focal point for the local Malay community. They have a huge selection of Malay and Indian Muslim specialties.

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When we first arrived we saw a man weaving these cool little bamboo leaf pods for making rice cakes.  He leaves a small opening at the top for pouring in dry rice until it is about 1/2 full.  Then it is put in boiling water for many hours.  The bamboo leaves allow just enough water in to cook the rice perfectly. A beautifully formed rice cake is the finished product.

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Diana then took us inside the market to show us some of the popular food stalls.  This is the most popular stall which is owned by Indian Muslims.  There is always a long que, especially for bone marrow soup which is eaten with a straw. In this photo, the man is making muttun soup and holding up the stomach, tongue and ribs of the lamb; every part of the lamb is used.

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Diana showed us many other popular Malay food items including rice cakes made in bamboo logs.  Curry soup is poured over the cubes of rice and then it is topped with fried coconut. The bamboo tied with colorful string is filled with rice and beans.

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Most Malay food is either extremely sweet or deep fried….so, not healthy! Malaysians believe color and sweetness denote happiness, however they also have a very high rate of diabetes!  We all sat down at the hawker center to try several foods including Muttun Soup and Malay sweets and drinks. Agar Agar is a dessert with tapioca on the bottom, layered coconut, then pandang pudding.  The other dessert is rice and coconut palm sugar wrapped in a banana leaf.  The most popular Malay drink, called “bandung”, contains sweet red-tinted rose water mixed with evaporated milk.  We also had Singapore’s famous lime juice.

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Next we were taken to the best Popiah stall in Singapore for a lesson on how it is made. Popiah means “thin skin” and is the local term for fresh spring rolls.  Quang and his sister Zita own the shop and although they only make the skins when customers are not present, Quang agreed to make them while we were there and then Zita showed us how to prepare them. Ingredients include a sweet sauce, mixture of vegetables like jicama and carrot and crab meat, lettuce, bean sprouts, hot spices, and homemade “crunchies” – not sure what is in them!

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Everyone in the group had an opportunity to make some but only a few did; I thought it was fun!  Of course we got to eat them as well -YUM!  This brother/sister duo are also happy to put these ingredients together for DIY Popiah parties- we might just have to try that sometime!

Lastly, we went to 328 Katong Laksa, which supposedly has the best Laksa in Singapore.  There are different kinds of laksa, but the Katong variety is made with rice noodles, shrimp, and chili spices in a rich coconut broth.  You can also add cockles to the mix.  Story has it that the owner, Nancy,  used to rent a space above a coffee shop to sell her laksa at 328 (not sure the name of the street).  Everyone loved her laksa so much which of course also brought much business to the coffee shop.  The man who owned her rented space, as well as the coffee shop, stole her recipe and forced her to leave.  He started making and selling it himself, but the people were so loyal to Nancy that they wouldn’t go back.  She eventually opened up her own shop somewhere else and named it 328 Katong Laksa. Her loyal followers found her and her little shop continues to be the most famous and sought after in all of Singapore.  She also has the BEST lime juice around!

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Nancy beat famous chef, Gordon Ramsey, in a laksa-making contest- Nancy earned 19% more votes  from Singaporeans over Gordon Ramsey’s version!  Gordon recently opened his own restaurant here at Marina Bay Sands called, “Bread Street Kitchen”.

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Here’s a photo of our whole group with Nancy in the middle:

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It was definitely a culturally enriching day – I loved exploring some of the foods for which Singapore is known. Next time I hear someone exclaim, “Shiok”  I’ll know they are thoroughly enjoying their food experience! 🙂

Sweet Memories With Caleb

Caleb is back home in MN and our apartment is strangely quiet once again.  Our dear son, Caleb, spent nearly two weeks with us recently which brought such joy to our hearts.  Dan and I love Singapore and are thankful we get to experience this beautiful part of the world, but we do miss our kids (and their spouses) immensley.  So, when Caleb told us he could work remotely from Singapore and take some vacation as well…we were thrilled! Both Dan and Caleb worked some 1/2 days and a couple full days, but we still managed to get a lot of fun in and introduce Caleb to some of our favorite spots.

He felt great his first day here so we packed a lot  in before jetlag got the best of him.  Singapore is 13 hours ahead of MN so we knew he’d be falling into his soup by about 6pm! He first toured our apartment complex- especially enjoying the view from our balcony:

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We then walked along the Singapore River through Robertson Quay and Clark Quay – areas Dan and I both enjoy.  I love the colorful shophouses and bumboats that travel up and down the river. Caleb really loved this area too, and was amazed at all the colors and beauty- so much to take in at once- Singapore is really a sensory overload!

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From Clark Quay we took the subway to Chinatown.  Caleb went to China twice as a teenager so he was interested to see how similar Chinatown is to China.  He concluded there are many similarities but Chinatown is much cleaner! 🙂  Our first stop was to buy selfie sticks:

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Other picts from Chinatown:

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Getting acquainted with some locals…

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That evening we walked along the river all the way to the Esplanade where jazz was playing in the outdoor ampitheatre. Marina Bay Sands can be seen from behind the stage:

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I took him to Holland Village one afternoon.  It’s small and quaint with little cafes and coffee shops and small restaraunts serving great local food. He was very brave and tried Otak Otak which is spicy fish paste cooked in banana leaves!

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The next afternoon we took a cable car ride over to Sentosa Island.  We zip-lined, saw one of the giant merlions, and ate dinner on the beach.  Super fun day!

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Zip-Lining:

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Wednesday, after a delicious dinner of  chicken and duck satay and lime juice at Gardens by the Bay,  we watched the light show in the Super Tree Grove. There is a beautiful light show to music twice every night:

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Thursday we went on a Night Safari:

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Friday was super fun as well.  Both Caleb & Dan took the whole day off so we started with breakfast at Common Man Coffee Roasters which is right across the street from our condo.  The guys had delicious pancakes with carmelized bananas, berry compote, honey clusters, and real maple syrup.

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Then we took a bumboat to the island of Pulau Ubin to go mountain biking:

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We walked up a several story watch tower for some spectacular views!

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We walked along the boardwalk which was beautiful…

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Mangrove trees:

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Sadly, we didn’t see any monkeys, but we did see some wild boar,  jungle fowl, (colorful chickens) and a monitor lizard. Here are some photos of some of the locals:

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We stopped at a little “Uncle’s” shop to buy water.  He was nowhere to be found.  We called out and were just about to leave when he rose from his nap to serve us.  It’s a different pace on this island! Had to get a pict of this sign next to his shop because it is so Singaporean to add, “La”  to the end of a phrase or sentence! 🙂

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Saturday we went back to Sentosa Island to go paddleboarding with Dan’s boss and friend, Phil Friedlos, followed by coffee with Phil and his wife, (and our friend) Bev. I wished I had gotten a photo of them!

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That evening we went on the Singapore Flyer, which is the tallest observation wheel in the world! It takes about 45 minutes to go all the way around and the views are breathtaking.  We started around 6:50pm so we got to see the city in daylight and watch the sun go down, seeing the beauty of the night lights as well.

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I took Caleb to Tiong Bahru to see the wet market, hawker center, and a quaint bakery. I didn’t think to take any photos that day but Caleb got some good ones!

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I told Caleb that as we walk down the street in Tiong Bahru we would likely see some older folks sitting out front – old shirtless men with big bellies, eating noodle (as the Singaporeans call it) or porridge and kopi, and sure enough we did! 🙂

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The next day we went to Little India and enjoyed some masala chai together!

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Our last big adventure was renting bikes at East Coast Park:

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…followed by dinner at one of our favorite restaurants near our condo, called, “Bar Bar Black Sheep” which has Indian, Thai, and Western food- it’s 3 different kitchens but one restaurant. We ended our last night with our favorite dessert at Pies & Coffee- “Sticky Date Cake”.  I opted for the gluten free Orange Cake which was good but can’t compare!

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Those are many of the highlights of our time with Caleb, however not pictured, are all the great heart-to-heart talks, evening swims and cards by the pool, basketball and running with Dan, laughs, hugs, neck rubs, and just enjoying each other’s company.

Caleb…you are such a delight and have given us the precious gift of your presence – we have missed you so.  Thank you for coming to the other side of the world, and allowing us to share our lives with you.  We love you Forever.

Mountain Biking on Pulau Ubin

Monkeys, jungle fowl, wild boar, and mountain biking.  As the old familiar Sesame Street song goes, “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong…” But on the little island of Pulau Ubin – each of these things do belong together!

Visitors travel to Pulau Ubin from the main island of Singapore via a 10 minute bumboat ride which costs $2.50 per person.  Each bumboat carries up to 12 people and the captain will wait until his boat is full before leaving port.

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Shaped like a boomerang, and less than four square miles, Pulau Ubin (which means Granite Island in Malay) is situated just off the north-eastern corner of mainland Singapore. Years ago, granite mining supported a few thousand settlers. Rubber was cultivated along with coffee, pineapple, coconut and jasmine. Today, abandoned granite quarries remain as picturesque relics of Ubin’s history, while forests and grasslands have regenerated to cover up the ravages of the past. Pulau Ubin is one of the last areas in Singapore that has been preserved from urban development.

Today, only 38 residents, in 24 households ranging in age from 50-90+ remain on the island, but they continue to keep the memories and pulse of the island alive in their quiet way. With no access to modern utilities, villagers rely on wells for water, diesel generators for electricity, and traditional farming and fishing for their food.

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Pulau Ubin has five bicycle shops, three grocery stores, four seafood restaurants, one resort, one training center, and one police station. It is also home to one of Singapore’s best mountain bike trails which is about five miles long and includes open meadows and thick jungle.

This is the shop from where we rented our bikes.  Not the best quality, but lesson learned- next time pay the extra $2 for the newer bikes with working gears! 🙂

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Residents say there are more than 200 wild boar, and hundreds of monkeys, lizards, and jungle fowl on the island. The monkeys got so close to us that while I videotaped them playing I seriously thought one was going to jump on me!

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A boardwalk runs through the mangrove, allowing visitors to observe the plant and marine life up close.

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There were definite contrasts between the gorgeous landscapes and piles of garbage- especially along the shores.

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Wooden house villages and other beautiful sites:

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After a few hours of biking and walking, we took a bumboat back to mainland Singapore. We thoroughly enjoyed the wooden house villages, relaxed inhabitants, rich and preserved wildlife, abandoned quarries and plantations and the untouched nature that represents Pulau Ubin.

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Sights, Smells, and Sounds of Bangalore

Officially known as Bangaluru, Bangalore is the Silicon Valley of India  and the hub of India’s IT industry.  With immense growth over the past decade, Bangalore’s infrastructure struggles to keep up with the increasing demands. Dan has traveled to India many times since he began working for Accenture in 2010, so I was elated to finally experience it with him! We stayed in a beautiful 5 star hotel called the “ITC Gardenia”.  This is not a fair representation of how most people live!

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Two views from our balcony:

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The main floor of the hotel is open air. The structure with the green roof is the Lotus Pavilion, which is where we had all our meals. The roof is green because it is covered with grass!

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The hospitality in India is astounding.  I shared in a previous blog about the incredible hospitality of Chef Madhav Nambiar:

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This man was always ready with a warm greeting every time we left or returned to the hotel:

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Nicola worked in Guest Services and was amazingly warm towards me.  She once walked me all the way up to our room (even though I had been staying there a full day and night already).  I told her I had never seen such warm hospitality and I asked if I could take her photo so I could share with my family and friends how special she is.  She was so excited… she said, “How about we take a picture of us together?!”  She hugged and kissed me every time I saw her! And before we left she asked for my email address.  Based on some things she shared with me, I think she needs a “mom-ish” person in her life.

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Bangalore is a city of contrasts.  There are the wealthy, reflected by this luxurious hotel, and then there is the rest of Bangalore.  As we walked down a local street, we were met with the sad conditions in which many people live. It was an assault on the senses: piles of garbage everywhere, mixed with the smells of fruitstands and local foods cooked and served to passersby.

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In my  short two days in this city, I witnessed five men urinating in the street. The poverty and unsanitary conditions were hard to see.

The roads in Bangalore have no lanes so everyone drives wherever they want on the road.  As a result, there is a constant and incessant honking as drivers alert others to their presence. As cars and rickshaws fight for position, motorbikes (some carrying 2 adults and 2 children – and no helmets) weave in and out strategically. And of course, there is the ocassional cow to hold things up!

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Other sights of Bangalore:

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Stray dogs run wild in the streets along with random cows!

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Squaty-Potties…always have a roll of T.P. in your purse as none are provided!  In fact, it cost me 2 rupees to use this public potty. The next photo is a huge termite mound- Yikes!

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Standing in front of a Bamboo Tree:

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One other adventure we had during my stay, is a tour of the Bangalore Palace which was built in 1887 and is adorned with magnificent woodcarvings and Tudor-style architecture on the inside. It’s similar to the medieval castles that were built in Normandy and England.  It sits on 454 acres including a beautiful garden.  Sadly, it has lost much of its charm over the years and is in quite disrepair, but still attracts visitors from around the world. We walked through it while listening to an audio-tour; we both agreed it would be super fun to play in as a little child!

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I hope I’ve done a good job of capturing some of the sights, smells, and sounds of  Bangalore for you!   Our last night at the hotel we had a couple’s massage. Dan really doesn’t like massages and as you can see he was a bit apprehensive! Although, it was his suggestion, so that tells you how much he loves me! 🙂

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Butterflies and Purpose

I love butterflies; they are so graceful and beautiful.  Their transformation from egg – larva – chrysalis – butterfly, is astounding and miraculous.

Following our safari in Bannerghatta National Park, Dan and I walked through the Butterfly Park.

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While we were there an employee brought in hundreds of new butterflies to be released in the park.

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Interestingly, this is what butterflies see:

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Other than the obvious beauty and grace of butterflies, I love that their life cycle carries so much meaning and symbolism that parallels my relationship with Jesus.

Stage 1: The Egg.  In this stage the tiny butterfly is extremely fragile, requiring nourishment and protection until the next phase of life. The mother knows instictively to lay the eggs on a specific kind of leaf in which the larva will eat when it breaks out.

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Although I was raised in the church, it wasn’t until I was 14 that I made a personal decision to give my life to Jesus. I too, needed spiritual nourishment and protection until the next stage of my relationship with the Lord.

Stage 2: Larva (caterpillar).  As soon as the larva emerges from the egg it stumbles and inches its way along on a mission to grow, so it eats and eats and eats while it continues to grow and expand.  It begins by eating the entire leaf on which it was born. The caterpillar will go through the molting process several times while it is growing, until it reaches its full size.

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As a young follower of Jesus, I remember being so hungry to learn more and more about my Savior.  I loved reading The Bible and listening to speakers and Pastors teach from God’s Word.  I wanted to spend time with friends that were like minded, learn to worship God through music, prayer, and the way I lived my life.  I  was eager to grow in my faith.  Like the caterpillar who sheds it’s outer skin while it grows, this season of my life was not easy as I went through my own “molting” process- learning to shed off that which was not pleasing to God. Unlike the caterpillar, however, I will continue to grow and “molt” until the day I die as I desire and seek to be more like Jesus.

Stage 3: Chrysalis. Now the caterpillar has come into maturity, reaching its full length and weight.  It becomes so full that it must build a protective shell or cocoon around itself so it can prepare for the next phase of life.

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God has a specific purpose for each of us.  He has gifted us uniquely and has a good plan for our lives if we choose to follow and surrender to him.  We need to seek him and learn to hear his voice, like a sheep knows the voice of his shepherd,  so we can walk out his plans and purposes for our lives.  It is in this secret dwelling place of seeking God, that we find shelter, strength, comfort, healing, and deliverance.  Our spiritual “cocoon” is a place where God takes all of those things we have shed and replaces them with his Word, his Holy Spirit, his love, and his purposes for our lives.

Stage 4: Butterfly.  When the butterfly first emerges its wings are still soft and pressed up against its body.  It’s not until blood starts to pump into the wings that it realizes its capabilities and within hours it will master flying.

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We are all fearfully and wonderfully made, handcrafted by the Master’s hands, varying in gifts, talents, and abilities.  There is great JOY for those who know their Heavenly Father loves them completely, designed them purposefully, and who learn to “master flying” as he intended.

Safari in Bangalore

Lions and tigers, and bears, Oh My!  Dan and I decided an Indian safari would be a fun way to spend one of our two days together in Bangalore.  So, early Saturday morning, we set off for Bannerghatta National Park for the Lion & Tiger Safari, Herbivore Safari, and Bear Safari. Each are separated by a tall metal gate, which strangely resembles Jurassic Park!

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As we stood in line waiting to purchase our tickets, a group of 4 scientific research students asked if we’d like to share a jeep with them.  They were all in Bangalore for a research conference.  Two of them came from Sweden, one from Dehli, and the other was from New Zealand; they were a fun and interesting bunch.  We all squished into our jeep, with Dan and I in the “kids'” seats in the back.

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We entered the Herbivore exhibit first.  This elephant was hilarious- he tossed the grasses over his head and left them there! He was probably just a little shy.

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We saw some other plant-eating animals but, honestly, I was more excited to see the scarier meat-eating ones so didn’t get many photos in this exhibit.

These are sloth bears, and they live up to their name- they’re quite slow moving but cute! They came right up to our vehicle.

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They have over 30 majestic Bengal Tigers and 8 White Tigers – these were my favorite- so gorgeous!

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Lions!  This female had blood on her side and she was so close we could see blood in her teeth.  It was a little scarey because each time she heard our camers click, she looked like she was going to lunge at us!

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The safari proved to be a fun way to spend the day.  Afterwards, we saw the Butterfly Garden at the park…blog coming soon! 🙂