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Wanderlust – Singapore!

*Still travelling – and sending this to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #22, hoping the messenger rooster (which lives next to my hotel in Yangon) will get to Angie – he looks pretty determined!*

This, hopefully, will be the first of 2-3 posts catching up on photos from previous trips in Singapore and regional NSW. Travel themed posts while I’m travelling. 🙂


Singapore is said to have two national pastimes, eating and shopping. I’m not someone who goes ga-ga over luxury brands, anyway most of them have shops in Sydney too, so that leaves eating. So. Much. Eating.

I go crazy for the hawker food. Oh the hawker food – popiah, rojak, oyster omelette, laksa, congee, flaky roti, Hainan chicken, endless variations on rice and noodles, all those coconut or sago-laced sweets, durian cake, kaya toast, coffee or tea with condensed milk, masala chai, mountains of durian, and much, much, much more…

Can you believe I was so caught up in eating that I didn’t take photos? I really should practise taking photos of food I have in other countries.

Onto the photos I did remember to take. Here are the non-food bits of the trip.


This time, I went back to Chinatown and visited the Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple. I was lucky to be there during a ceremony led by a visiting monk from India. The smell of incense, otherworldly sing-song chanting (so unlike the western chromatic scale), punctuated by alien instruments and ceremonies. Despite the sound and color and motion, this was an hour of meditative stillness.

(As i’m learning in Myanmar, there are many variations of Buddhist temples. This one, like many in Malaysia, are in the Chinese style with lots of red, lanterns, incense, and bits of paper fortunes in mysterious shadowy corners. The ones in Myanmar are very different, dazzling in white and gold. As someone said to me yesterday, it’s like different types of sugar, but they all taste sweet – cute metaphor, non?)

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A complete contrast was Marina Bay Sands. The famous (and famously expensive) hotel that looks like a submarine.

I went there not sure what to expect. After all, it didn’t sound like my kind of place. Yet I was pleasantly surprised. Sure it was all about consumerism, but the building has some beautiful architectural moments. Inside, it was full of geometric patterns, tall, mysterious angles, silhouettes of figures, and details that remind you that – although this building is cool and shaded – you are in tropical Singapore…


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Blue Mountains before bushfires, and the simplest granola cookies


(Recipe for granola cookies at the end of this post)

Blue Mountains, part of our Great Dividing Range and the stuff of pioneering Australian stories. It’s particularly famous for the Three Sisters – a rock formation that attracts all kinds of tourists to the town of Katoomba. Since it is a 1-2 hour drive or a train ride out of Sydney, it has long been a place for Sydneysiders to spend a weekend, a few days or even weeks, unwinding, remembering a slower pace of life.

It is also one of the places that are in danger from bushfires every year, during the annual October to March ‘bushfire season’.

This year, the bushfires have started early around Sydney and in the Blue Mountains. Thursday afternoon saw Sydney’s famous blue sky turn an ominous orange-yellow from the smoke – even this morning, our cityscape looked unnaturally sepia, as though we woke up in the world of Instagram. A colleague who has a house in the lower Blue Mountains is at home soaking their house with water, and having the rural fire service doing back burning just outside of their backyard. Gulp. Anyone who has driven around rural Australia has probably seen the hectares of black tree stumps, running over hills and down into valleys to the edges of rivers, and also hectares of living trees with trunks and branches blackened by fire.

But after each fire, the bush regenerates – and some plants have evolved to do so. The black stumps grow green shoots, seeds sprout; flowers tempt insects and animals back. Our plants may not have the softest petals, or the most ornamental leaves, but you’ve got to give them kudos for being tough enough to survive our sunburnt country, with droughts and flooding rains – and fires.

The photos in this post are from the Blue Mountains, taken just before bushfire season. The area isn’t yet affected by bushfires, and I hope it will be unscathed this year.


We spent the first weekend of this month in Blackheath, a town nestled into the quieter back half of the Blue Mountains. It was a long, three-day weekend, and we spent most of it walking around tracks in the surrounding bushland, catching up around bottles of red wine, and eating good food.

The bush around Blackheath wowed me, again. This is such a quintessential “Australian” landscape with bleached colours and too-harsh sun. 


Once our eyes adjusted to the brightness around us, I found layers of textures, patterns and contours all around us. Walking on ridges, we saw trees silhouetted against the empty space and bright, blue sky. The cicadas were out in full force. On the way back, we saw so many cicada shells – almost looking like jewelled brooches – clinging to a bushfire-blacked tree.


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Holidays! First stop Singapore


hazy Singapore

We are on holidays!

(I’ve taken a break from work, blogging, and all social media til now. After 24 hours away from the office, I didn’t even think about the project that had consumed almost all of my waking hours. Apparently I’m not an incurable workaholic!)

First on our holiday itinerary was a stopover in Singapore. A country almost squarely on the equator, it was hot, humid, hot, and did I mention hot? The temperature, I think, hovers around 30°C / 86°F, and the frequent tropical storms brought cooler temperatures, such a relief in the early afternoons.


Storm in the early afternoon, chaotic, but refreshing!

Being in the tropics does funny things to your taste buds. On our first night, tired from the flight and dazed from the tropical heat, we found bowls of soup noodles and two generous bottles of Tiger beer in a hawker style food hall. The ice cold beer, pale in colour and light in taste, was one of the most refreshing things I have ever had.

And the noodle soup. Mine was a simple broth flavoured with a casual handful of fresh clams, lightened by barely cooked buk choy. Mr Gander had freshly made dumplings. After 8 hours in a plane, these simple bowls revived our appetites and made us look forward to the morning.

Another time, I had a bowl of pork soup. Pork joints boiled until falling apart tender, the rich broth flavoured with soy sauce, with slices of just crunchy lotus roots – and peanuts boiled until they are soft and creamy in texture. This is the soup from my childhood in China. Finding it unexpectedly in Singapore made me suddenly nostalgic for barely remembered things.



It seemed that everywhere we went, there was good food waiting to be found. Walking through Little India, we rested in a street side restaurant and had marsala tea in steel cups, hot, frothy, fragrant with spices. Every street corner had a curry restaurant, and every second shop had sacks of fragrant, heady spices and scary looking chillies, and other unknown things.


There were durian pancakes from a stall near Chinatown, and kaya. Kaya – coconut jam – has become my obsession when in Singapore, and this time, Mr Gander also became a convert. A traditional Singapore breakfast is two soft boiled eggs and kaya toast: golden outside, buttery, sweet and jammy inside. Served with dark, strong coffee poured from theatrical large kettles and intensified by sweet condensed milk, this is such a south east Asian take on European food.

Each time in Singapore I have been fascinated by the cultures and languages that reveal its colonial history and its present-day society.




Although most people speak some English (fluently), it is common to hear two, or three, languages used in the same conversation. The woman selling fish head congee or the old man pouring coffee spoke Chinese, Malay, and English. This seems to be a real polyglot society, and it shows in the food.

As for the city, those amazing flat palm trees or travellers palms, I will let photos show you. Back soon with more photos and a couple of things I baked before going on holidays, if we find free internet around the Isles of Harris and Lewis of Scotland…