A Mayan adventure

It was all rather whirlwind. And in a tiny country in central America too. This journey took place as a side trip on our cruise in the Caribbean many years back.

We had arrived in the tiny central American country of Belize. Known for many a natural wonder, we were focused on that one thing, ie getting to a Mayan site. A former British colony, the country boasts (as some of its neighbours) that it has some of the most concentrated number of Mayan sites. However it was ironic that the only one on offer (heheh) was Xunatunich, some 2 hours’ drive away.

Sold!

And soon we were on the way to this site that lies between Belize and Guatemala. It would turn out to be quite a journey, which may at first seem to underwhelm but then later came back flooding as memories of a magnificent site seen. Perhaps it was the first time we’ve seen a Mayan site, hence the feeling. It has to be said though that the entire excursion took almost 8 hours, most of it was spent negotiating the roads getting to and back from the site to the ship.

Which is why this will not be the first and only time we see the Mayans (sites we mean). We are for sure coming back… and spending a lot more time at each site too. Perhaps not in Belize (which we now have other plans for), but perhaps in a larger neighbouring country…

Our little ‘moon shot’ to Xuanatunich was still exciting. Read all about it here! Have you been to this Mayan site?

Dive deeper into Beijing

The city is such a juxtapose. As it hurtles towards modernity, it had lost quite some of its original charms. Or so it may seem. Scratch a little deeper and perhaps you might find a gem or two that remains.

In this post, we share the links to two short essays.

  • Food. Yes in any major city or culture one needs to see, smell and taste the way food is prepared. Remember we wrote that there is history coming from food too? Well, this short essay shares what can be found in Beijing. Read more about it here!
  • Now aside from the Great wall or the wonderful sites in the city itself, you should know that there is much more just surrounding the city. And nowhere is it more intriguing as the Sacred way (here) which leads to the tombs of the Ming Emperors.

There you have it. Honestly even a full week in Beijing is not sufficient. Just like spending a few days in NY City wouldn’t really ‘count’…

And so ends our series on Cathay – ahem, China. The middle Kingdom was home for 4 years and there are much more memories than possible to pen on this little blog. Believe us when we say what we put in this blog is but a mere fraction of what we’ve seen and done. We spent a chapter of our lives exploring this giant continental sized country. It is full of juxtapose, even till today and we hope this inspires your curiosity to go put your handprints there.

Next up, time to rotate to North America and we shall share some reminisces about Canada and the Caribbean. Heheh, beautiful memories those journeys were too. There is just so much to share and such a limited time to write and publish. That’s coming soon!

Imperial Capital 北京

Empires.

You’ve read about them. Might have watched documentaries about how they rose and fell. One common thread of these huge political entities is the grandeur of their capital. And Beijing is one such example.

Not capital till the early 1400s, the city was a ‘mere’ provincial town on the northern reaches of the Chinese empire. While it was ‘capital’ of regional kingdoms and fiefdoms, it was only because of Chu-Ti’s ascension to the throne that got the city into the limelight. Not wanting to remain in Nanjing where the founder of the Ming dynasty (his father) domiciled, he preferred his own base in the north where he had previously been the feudal prince.

Thus an imperial capital was born.

And it has continued growing ever since, gaining weight (we mean size) and transforming into a city with so much to see and do. Because it is filled with such a diverse array of relics and imperial wonders. You have to know we are all privileged. During the imperial era, no commoner would easily ever set their eyes on what you now take for granted to visit and see. Unless you became either an eunuch, a soldier or a palace maid.

The city is a must to visit and we cannot profess to provide a guide. But we’ve compiled a few stories on Beijing. Starting from the cover here, we dive further sharing with you what we saw with our eyes (umm…camera). Enjoy!

Have you been to Beijing? Does it put you in awe?

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?