Happy 52nd birthday!

Wow. Living in the western part of our little red dot, we get mini previews of the jets and helicopters flying past almost every weekend when the rehearsals take place for the parade that will be held on our independence day. We call it National Day here in our little red dot.

Singapore_240-animated-flag-gifsOn that day and the many before (and after), flags deck out apartment blocks across our little red dot. Street lamps become adorned with streamers topped by our national coat of arms. And the local parade(s) and neighbourhood get-togethers that take place all over the island will be fun filled activities too!

Fireworks. Of course there will be a beautiful display in the night skies tonight at the Marina bay area. And this year we will have a drone show too. Watch them move in formation as it fortell what the future might hold for little red dotters.

Neighbourhood 7Some people are zealous patriots, others may be a little lukewarm. But for someone who had been living out and about the world before for quite many years and seen a little of what is out there, we are immensely proud of our little red dot. Perhaps arrogant in some ways. But there are many many reasons for that. Come here and see it for yourselves so that we can rub it in your face! LOL.

Ok. Seriously.

NDP Fly pass 8It has taken a long time in our development from third to the first world, yet we are considered a young nation. And indeed we still have a long way to go, such as being a truly first world culture. We are still a cleaned up city as opposed to a clean one. Our driving etiquette can do with some improving. Our mass rapid transit system needs a massive overhaul. But as one school that Mel went to proclaims: The best is yet to be!

How does your country celebrate its independence?

How great is the Great Wall?

In a course on social pyschology many years back, Mel learnt about how humans have this tendency to form groups. And these groups frequently distinguish themselves from other groups or individuals. Some will keep to themselves and exclude other ‘non members’ socially. Others will build a wall.

Literally.

Not walls in one’s mind. Real solid brick stone or mud walls. Perhaps they do that (ie build walls) to keep other non members of their group away physically. Out of sight, out of mind right? Maybe they wanted to cordon off a space to call their own. ‘We dont want to share‘ it seems to call out to us…or perhaps they were scared and wanted to protect themselves. Don’t you wonder what the true considerations were when it came to the grand scale of walls built by the ancient Chinese?

Not built in a day just as Rome weren’t, the walls were built by the many states on the north China plains. It just took a stroke of ‘genius’ to decide that they should be repaired, linked and perhaps extended… building a wall cost money and lives, some modern leader needs to learn.

Today we call them walls ‘Great’. Was it really so? Did the ancient Chinese really tried to build walls to defend themselves as marketed? Or was it building walls to carve out and protect the territories that they snatched from someone else? Historians and experts of antiquities may have a field day debating all of this, so why not ponder over this point as you read of our explorations of the magnificent wall, one that is said (debunked) to be visible from space?

Our climbings are recorded here. Have you been to the wall? Did you climb it and became a ‘good Han’?

History through food?

Can one relate to the historical elements of a place from the food scene it has? This article set us to think. Do we think about how the cuisine we take for granted today came about?

We recall a story about how pig trotters soup became popular in Chinese cuisine.

It was said that during the period of the northern and southern dynasties in China (~AD 317-589), there was an emperor whose army had been anniliated during battle. This emperor fled from defeat seeking to return to his capital and had to find shelter while disguising himself as a beggar. He came upon a farmer’s hut and sought refuge. And the poor farmer despite having nothing, offered to share some pig trotters soup with the fallen emperor. It was said that since that time this soup has gained popularity, because the emperor put it on the imperial menu…heheh. We cannot seem to verify this story on the web (perhaps it is only in Chinese), so take this with a pinch of salt…as seasoning lol.

Perhaps the article we cited (in the link above) was not suggesting about how food is intertwined with history. But the point of our post is about how we as travelers may appreciate more the food of a place we travel to, if we were to know a little about how it came to be. Wouldn’t that be part of the experience just as much as knowing about the sights we see?

Like the time we read Ken’s article about Bologna, isn’t it intriguing to know that the origin of the term Spaghetti Bolognese was a mis-interpretation? Btw, it’s always a pleasure to read Ken’s posts. Check his blog out at Journeys of Len.

And we are sure that many such stories abound in other cultures and countries about why certain foods are to be prepared and eaten in a specific way. Do you have any juicy stories from your travels to share?

Our Bangkok getaway, a journalog

Finally! We managed to pull together the pictures and story of our recent culinary and history filled journey to Bangkok over the lunar new year holidays. Oh how time flies! That was more than a month ago!

You know the thing about not cherishing what’s around you?

Well, perhaps Bangkok was one such place that we have “neglected” all this time. Because we have been focused on the journeys that take us afar – that is across the other sides of the planet. And so this city of Angels was not on the radar. It was only there because of the price!

Now there will be many many posts about Bangkok. From how to find the cheapest and best hostel stays to the experience of boozing all around the city, one might experience information overload. Ours will focus on the slightly ‘glitzier’ side of Bangkok, that is the malls, the shopping and the restaurants. Nope. Not quite nomadic and that’s not the intention!

What do we think you missed in Bangkok? Take a quick look at the journalogs we’ve prepared. Our story begins with part I – here.

Looking for your ancestor?

Did we descend from the great apes that came out of Africa?

Well that could have been more than 1.6 million years ago according to modern anthropology. Perhaps you weren’t thinking that far back…how about grandpa who came to Singapore from China? Or perhaps the millions of European immigrants that went through the registries of Ellis island?

A couple of months back, we wrote about our journey to liberty and Ellis island in our post featuring summer travel in the US. One thing that we witnessed while visiting Ellis island was the long queue of folks seeking to use the island’s database. They were all searching for scanned records of their ancestral loved ones (sounds old but really barely 100 years ago) who made that daring move crossing continents.

But if you interprete this article as we did, this trend seem to accelerate as you age.

People do not want to lose connections and seek rootedness. And ancestry can be a big draw as it pro-offers comfort in knowing and belonging. But it also true that your journey of search may not provide you all the answers you look for.

Will you start looking up your family tree or create one?

Off to “Old Gold Mountain”

Here we are again in the airport, barely 2 weeks from the last occasion we stepped back to the comforts of tropical Singapore and to lots of rain. It has been a strange 2 months – all that rain at a seasonally ‘drier’ period for the little red dot. And all that flooding around the world too! Sometimes it seems we cannot simply reject that there is some form of climate change going on.

Old San Francisco Chinatown
Old Chinatown in the late 1800s

Well we are off to where the Chinese called 舊金山 (old gold mountain for literal translation and also in Google, so its not just me), a reference to a very different time more than a hundreds years ago as California was opening up to mining prospectors. The gold rush of the 1850s attracted not only European migrants but also the eager Chinese coolies that mined, ran laundries, opened restaurants and built railways.

Many were from the southern province of Guangdong (廣東省), thus Cantonese is a relatively well heard language in and around the city with the purported world’s largest Chinatown outside Asia.

The itinerary built by Suan is relatively packed and yours truly will play the roles of chauffeur, porter, photographer, bouncer, butler and the walking ATM. Talk about women’s rights…how about leaving some left for men? Get it? Bad joke, nvm.

It will just be 5 days (including the weekend) before we have to head across to New York where Mel will be in the office for business. Mixing business with some pleasure is in some ways good to relieve the stress of focusing too much on just work. Just read what some other bloggers have to say about folks not using up their vacation time. And it’s about people in the land that we are about to journey to not doing so…