Biting pieces of the Apple

There are many blogs and essays on the web about New York City. Plus the instagram photos, snapchat etc. We’ve been privileged to have been to the city quite a number of times over the last many years. But like they say, sometimes you don’t cherish what you have around you, that you see everyday…

Our story on the big Apple is really about some of the differences between when we first visited and recent years. This piece here shares that with you. And since there are so many places and things to describe, we thought we’d separate them into “bite sized” chunks for your to chew on.

What is there to see in each part of town? Well here’s our take:

  • Down Town is so busy! Aside from the finance district, it is also a jump-off point to liberty island, read all about it here.
  • Mid Town is all about skyscrapers it seems. So it should not be surprising to know that our take here on this section of the city would focus on them!
  • Up Town for us has largely been central park. But it is not the only attraction, though today for us it still is. Read all about our exploration of the largest green corridor of the city here.

We are sure you’ve got your own NYC stories to share. What would it be?

A fort in Singapore?

If one is asked about the little red dot – ie Singapore, one might envision a modern city full of skyscrapers and shopping malls… glitzy gardens etc. Sure. And for those who dig a little you might know that Singapore was ‘founded’ in 1819 by a British gentlemen whose name grace places, hotels, road names all over our little red dot.

But did you know that this was just the modern founding of the island?

For did you know that the trading of exotic goods was already a booming business for this little island well over 600 years ago? Heheh… betcha that you did not know that! To the point that the island was already an entrepot like its modern founder envision it today, except waaaay back.

So today our post is about a hill. Or more importantly, a fort on a hill. Simply because when you have a good thing going, it might invite envy. Someone might want to either take over your turf or destroy it… that is was the way that nation states handled it back then. The age of mercantilism, talk about business empires…

Thus coveted real estate have to be defended right? How else but from a vantage point. That’s why the word is used – vantage. Good to have an ad-vantage over your potential adversaries right? (Ok the word count for this post is achieved… phew). You might know that Singapore was the most fortified asset of the British empire in its heyday. So you can expect quite a few forts and pillboxes all over the island.

We shall not dive too much into history and leave you to find out more on your own. Take a peek here at how you can enjoy a walk on this monumental hill of our little red dot! Have you been here before? If so, what struck you the most?

Tour Boeing’s factory

This is incredible. And the post (here) really piqued our interest in visiting Everett. Where’s this place you ask? Well, it’s near Seattle and if you had read the link, you’d know that this town is home to Boeing. Yep, we’re talking about the folks who make a lot of the aircrafts we fly on.

We are sure you agree it is incredibly complex to build an aircraft. And enormous ones too. They have to be not only sturdy and safe but also efficient to operate too. That’s a fine balance to achieve and an incredible feat + amount of engineering effort is expended in the design and manufacture of each airliner. Noticed we said ‘liner’. Because today the airplane is no longer just a craft. It has evolved to be not only large to accomodate a lot of passengers, but it has also tacked on much more in amenities too. It all started with the flat beds in business class and we have ‘graduated’ to having showers and little apartments on board too…

Unlike mass market software, mass market passenger aircrafts cannot fail and reboot. That’s the difference between Microsoft and Boeing in our opinion. Hence a greater interest in getting there to see how these giants of transportation are put together.

One day. Perhaps we can visit the shipyards where the giant cruise ships are constructed too. You know, they are like little cities these days! But for now, it costs a mere US$16 to visit the Boeing plant. Would you go if you are ever in Everett?

Celebrating festivals

As a tourist, seeing festivals around the world is fascinating. Afterall they are different from our own customs, exotic to most outsiders (here). From wife carrying competition in Finland to La Tomatina in Spain just last month, travelers flock to these events to join in the fun.

Many years back we recalled Mel’s boss in Holland reminiscing how as a young man in the 1970s he had climbed up high on temples in Bali watching the proceedings of ceremonies and festivals. Those were the days when western travellers were few and far between and when places like Bali were truly exotic, sometimes bordering on risky to put it mildly.

In all of our journeys so far, we’ve not had the fortune of being in the midst of important festivals or celebrations. And being part of the drinking party during Oktoberfest or on St Patrick’s day don’t count in our view. Except that one time in Malta (here) when we arrived just in time to watch the carnival processions. Not as outlandish perhaps compared to the one in Venice, it was nonetheless an experience to participate along with the locals in the revelry, though in Malta it was a little more “subdued” in our opinion. Perhaps that has evolved now over the years – will someone correct us?

And finally there is the bizarre. Did you know there is a cat food festival near Lima every September? No. They don’t feed the cats, the cats are the food. Yikes! On the other hand the festival of the horns is rather sobering. Look it up!

Have you joined in any unique festival before and where was that?

As Presidential as it gets

Have you shaked hands with your country’s President? Do you even know where you country’s Presidential palace is? Ok for those who live under monarchies (albeit constitutional ones), this may not apply and we are not referring to these relics of institutions. Yes you can read from our language that we live the ideals of a republic free from privileges, accorded to people whose forebears hit ours with a club and subjucated them.

No. Indeed it is with pride we can say that it is here in the little red dot where a person with truly humble background can rise to potentially be our first woman President (elections in September). One who started life helping her parents’ pushcart in her youth, during the poverty stricken times of the little red dot in the 1960s eventually rising to become a lawyer and unionist.

Our little island has come a long way. Short perhaps in time span (52 years) but surely long from the perspective of tribulations along the way. Thus it is with great pleasure to share with you how the Presidential palace of our republic looks like – inside.

Did we get to meet Mr Tony Tan President? Nope. Although he did appear later in the day to join in the festivities taking place within the palace. Yep, the palace turns into a playground for the public on the days it is open. Best of all, it is open to all visitors local or foreign (who have to pay though).

While it is not considered an attraction from our perspective, the days it is open will afford the opportunity to see and imagine how the founding fathers of this little island struggled to build an erstwhile miracle on an island with no resources. We enjoyed our day. It was hot and humid in the open grounds but the atmosphere more than made up for it.

What can you experience while at the Palace? Read more here in our Singapore story on the Istana! Have you shaken hands with your head of state before?

Final stop for Hong Kong’s ding ding?

With a title like that we expect a little more response from Hong Kongers or residents of the SAR. The article in question (here) seeks to elaborate how competition from other modes of transport may erode the lure of taking an iconic ride on the world famous trams of Hong Kong island.

Really?

Our first ride on the Ding ding was in the early 1990s fresh out of college. It was already a tourist attraction, though there was a considerable number of locals taking the tram. More about that in our Hong Kong handprint story (which will come soon enough). True the SAR has numerous other attractions and a plethora of things to do. But we are sure that many who visit the island even today would consider a ride on the tramway to be a must do activity.

Constructed in 1903, the tramway is now well over 100 years old. Like a venerable old dame, the tramway has seen booms, busts and wars. The familiar “ding” that one hears as the tram comes through is iconic as the dim sum that one seeks in Hong Kong in our opinion. We actually compared that with the one in San Francisco. Although different (the Hong Kong one is double decked), they were both constructed and put in service around the same decades of the 19th century.

Real estate is precious on tiny Hong Kong island. Would this little piece of gem be removed? How do the locals feel about this iconic symbol of Hong Kong? Will Hong Kongers nd residents tell us your views?