Ahh, I am SO behind with my #worldcolours project. Red was supposed to be in February so this is more than a little late – eep! Anyway, here are my reds.
Hopefully I’ll get around to doing the ‘green’ post in the correct month…
Ahh, I am SO behind with my #worldcolours project. Red was supposed to be in February so this is more than a little late – eep! Anyway, here are my reds.
Hopefully I’ll get around to doing the ‘green’ post in the correct month…
In between Christmas in England and New Years in Singapore, Will & I flew to Ahmedabad in India to celebrate our friends wedding. They had already had a ceremony in England, but now it was time for the Indian side! Having never been to an Indian wedding, we were really looking forward to it but without any idea of what to expect.
Before we left Singapore we bought our outfits – a beautiful beaded sari for me and a kurta pajama (complete with matching shoes!) for Will. We picked up the outfits in Little India. Will’s was ready to take home, but I had to have my blouse made to measure. They were super sweet and turned it around really quickly for me (a couple of days) but I’d recommend leaving at least a week. I also got the skirt part of the sari with a lining stitched in and a wrap around hook-and-eye set up, making it really easy for me to put it on myself! Rather than having to have one of the couple’s aunties wrap me up!
Weddings are a massive event in India – the WHOLE family comes out for them and I think there were over 400 guests at this one. Vik’s family are Hindu, so what I’m going to describe is what we experienced – no doubt there are many variations on what happens and rituals that we didn’t get to see, as we weren’t part of the ‘wedding party’.
We started off with the Sangeet. The sangeet party is usually the most elaborate and grand part of the wedding and this one was no exception. We all got on a coach out to a country club about 30 minutes out of central Ahmedabad. The venue was beautifully decorated with huge flower displays and loads of amazingly colourful lighting.
There was a huge buffet meal available, with everyone milling around eating and drinking fruit juices and lassi (being a Hindu wedding and Hindu state there was no alcohol available – kind of a relief after the boozy Christmas time we’d just had in England). The food was amazing with lots of different stations offering different vegetable curries, dhal, and roti. We sampled loads of different things – some were absolutely delicious, others blew my mind with the spiciness! We finished up our meal with condensed milk ice creams on sticks (not dissimilar to a Mini Milk…) which were flavoured with cardamom – delicious!
After the meal, we moved to the seating area. By now, the sun had gone down so the weather was actually chilly, so we were grateful for the big gas heaters that were strategically placed! What I didn’t realise was we were now in for 3 or 4hours of Indian dancing and singing! The sangeet was hosted by a famous singer who I think had appeared on Indian Idol (or a similar reality TV show). The best bits were when big groups of the groom’s family appeared on stage to perform set dance routines. The guys amazed me with their dancing – especially when it included some Gangnam style moves!
It was incredibly energetic to watch. Then the ladies all performed some routines as well – a beautiful mixture of elegant arm movements and swirling skirts.
After the formal programme – lots more singing and dancing (!) – we all got up to dance in front of the stage with the whole wedding party. Pretty soon this was one big undulating mass of people moving in time to the music. Quite an amazing spectacle and I felt really English, with my inability to do some of the same moves in the same way as the impossibly elegant Indian ladies!
Then people started getting onto the stage and dancing. Aunties pulled Will & I up there to join in. But before too long we were all being asked to leave the stage as they were worried it was going to collapse! I guess several hundred people dancing will do that! So we carried on dancing on the grass, until my poor little feet were too tired to do any more and we joined other guests back on the coach to the hotel.
The next day, we slept in late, before having a short walk up the road from the hotel, in search of an ATM and water. We didn’t have much luck on either front but we did get to see lots of market stalls, motorbike repair shops and kids playing cricket. Back at the hotel we donned our Indian outfits (we’d worn more ‘Western’ outfits to the sangeet so we could dance more easily) and got into a tuk-tuk to take us to the wedding venue. Speeding through the Ahmedabad streets with my sari on, I felt impossibly glamorous!
We arrived at the wedding venue and met up with some of the other guests. As we were waiting, the bride arrived. She had to wait with her family whilst we all took part in the groom’s procession.
There was a band lounging around in the shade who seemed pleased to see us and kept waving over! The guys got taken off to have turbans made for them. After that we had time for a few quick photos before exciting news that an elephant had arrived! We’d been hearing rumours about this, but it was still unexpected. We all trundled out into the street to find a big group of family waiting and there was indeed an elephant!
Vik, the groom, soon arrived in a car covered in flowers. The band started playing – lots of trumpets and drums – creating an infectious beat. It was time for Vik to climb aboard the elephant.
Will kept commenting that it reminded him of something out of Aladdin – the bit where Aladdin arrives amidst great ceremony to meet Princess Jasmine! I think it was the little parasol…
The procession of the groom is known as the baraat. The music was going and soon everyone was walking in front of the elephant, leading him towards the wedding venue and his bride. Every now and then the band would stop walking, and this was an opportunity for the processional to dance and give the band money to continue. We would only walk a few metres before stopping again and dancing some more!
There seemed to be some set dances that went on as well as lots of clapping. It was a great opportunity to learn some dance moves, and to admire the wedding outfits of the guests. Everyone was wearing rich, vivid colours and the women looked beautiful in their heavily beaded and embroidered saris.
Eventually we arrived at the wedding venue (it probably took us 45 minutes to cover about 100 yards!). Here there was more dancing – this time with lots of scarves being swirled around. Then the groom got down off the elephant and was taken to meet the bride and her family. I couldn’t see a lot of this – we were towards the back and there were loads of people. Apparently, the bride’s mother has to keep pinching the nose of the groom to put him off taking her daughter away. The bride then has to ‘catch’ the groom by putting a garland of flowers around his neck. This is greeted with lots of cheering and clapping from the wedding guests. We then filed into the wedding venue.
We were all seated around a big raised area in the centre, where the ceremony would be performed. At this point, I found the divide between Indian and Christian weddings greatest. Usually, the actual ‘marriage’ is very solemn and everyone pays attention at every wedding I’ve been to. At an Indian wedding, it is a lengthy process, heavy with ritual and tradition. It goes on a long time, so everyone wanders around, chats, and eats! Waiters kept bringing us drinks and snacks to keep us going! I found out later that the bride and groom aren’t allowed to eat anything until the wedding is over!
The groom arrives first and there seemed to be a long blessing and prayers. Then the bride arrived, accompanied by all her female family members, who tightly surround her, carrying candles. There is also a sheet carried over her head, so you can hardly see her.
I didn’t know what was happening most of the time after that but there is a really good guide to Indian weddings here. I know there was a fire, and they had their feet touched a lot. They also seemed to be given a lot of gifts.
After the ceremony is over, all the guests lined up to have their photo taken with the bride and groom. This went on for AGES! Apparently the line is formed by family hierarchy – with immediate family going first, aunts, uncles and cousins next, then more further removed family, and finally friends. After this, the bride and groom are finally allowed to eat! We expected more dancing, but there wasn’t any – apparently the sangeet is where the big ‘party’ takes place. The bride and groom then went off for further blessings and rituals at the family home.
The next day, Vik’s cousin got married so we were all invited along for that. It was a completely different wedding – the groom arrived on a horse and everything was done outside. It was nice as we got to spend time Vik & Catherine, rather than mostly watching them!
It was a fantastic experience – one I’ll never forget. It was wonderful to be back in India, celebrating such a happy occasion and getting an insight into a huge part of Indian culture. Thanks so much for inviting us you guys – we had a blast!
As usual, there are more photos over on Flickr.
Hi folks – apologies for the long hiatus, it’s been tricky to fit in finding my feet in my new job, seeing friends, going back to England for Christmas, an Indian wedding, a friends 30th birthday long weekend, and blogging! Phew…
Anyway, excuses out of the way. I wanted to share some super exciting news with you – after a long time of knowing each other (8 years!), the boy and I got engaged over Christmas!
He proposed near to where he grew up, on a beautifully crisp and cold English winters day – it was just perfect. It goes without saying that we are hugely excited about being engaged, but also the years we have to come. So, as if I wasn’t already busy enough, I have our English countryside wedding to plan now. That’s the kind of busy I really like!
Happy Singapore anniversary to us! Can you believe its been exactly a year since we first touched down at Changi Airport, ready to start our big Asian adventure?! Time has really flown.
Having said that, it does feel like a long time ago since we arrived at Changi in the pouring rain, anxiously peering through our taxi windows at the place we had to learn to call home. Fast-forward 12 months and I now feel like I know Changi airport like the back of my hand. Those tree-lined boulevards are familiar to me (I even know the names of most of them – PIE, ECP, CTE…). This Little Red Dot does now indeed feel like home to me. I know my way around the island fairly well, I know how I take my teh at the canteen at work, I’ve sampled chicken rice, got drunk in new bars with new friends and created a little space of our own in our apartment. I’ve also started working again, which has been a huge part of my finally feeling settled in.
This last year has definitely been a rollercoaster ride for me. There were certainly days when I was so homesick it was like an ache; all I wanted to do was crawl under the duvet (with the AC on, of course!) and hide. I missed my friends and family terribly. Then I had days where everything would all come together – a beautiful view, the right song on my iPod, the kindness of someone I’d never met before. I went out and met new friends, tried new foods and explored new places. I started to understand the charm of this little place.
There are so many people who have helped me along my journey to feeling ‘settled’ – I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, friends (both old and new) and Will, of course! To all of you, I say thank you, I wouldn’t be here and feeling content without you.
I am very pleased to report, that after several long months of searching and lots of dead-ends, that I have finally got a job! Hooray! I’m just getting into my third week now and it’s going really well so far. I’m working as a Project Manager for a company that produces a music education magazine and is also hosting a 4-day, 1200 delegate conference and trade show next October. So I am a busy bee! We’re only a small team at the moment but likely to be growing in the not too distant future.
I have to say, although I enjoyed my time not working and like to think I made the most of exploring both Singapore and the region, it is wonderful to be back in a professional environment. I’m asked for my opinions and ideas and I feel like I am exercising my brain properly, after it being a bit fat and lazy for a while. It’s great to have a new set of challenges to grapple with. Plus, having an EP (Employment Pass) means I can finally do things like have my own bank account, so I am feeling more like an individual again, rather than just being Will’s ‘trailing spouse’.
There were times when I thought I’d never find work. I found myself envying friends back home in the UK but also here, even though quite often they’d complain about their jobs to me. I suppose the grass is always greener! I was worried that the longer I was out here without work, the harder it would become to find something. It was already starting to get to the stage where recruiters would tip their head to one side and go ‘oh, so you still haven’t found anything?’. I went through a lot of disappointments – getting close to something but then it falling through at the last-minute, for a whole variety of reasons.
I would never say to anyone coming out here without work that finding a job here is straightforward. I am sure it can be much easier than I had it, especially if you are in law, finance or accounting. I found the most effective route was to shamelessly use my networks! I found that people in Singapore are quite happy to help out in that respect, as they know often you have left your entire professional network behind when you relocate. That seemed to be the best way of getting interviews, rather than applying cold through one of the many job portals. I’d also recommend familiarising yourself with the MoM website, especially their information on the different types of Work Passes available to foreigners. Some of these have quite strict requirements about qualifications and salary levels (if you have any specific questions do feel free to pop me an email – I’d be more than happy to help). Most of all I would say, don’t give up! It can be tough and frustrating but if you put the effort in, it will pay off eventually.
I am sure that the day will come when I miss having the freedom to do what I like during the day, but for now, I am over the moon to be gainfully employed once more!
This week, the Lion City has played host to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka William and Catherine. They are touring South East Asia to make the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. After visiting Singapore, they will go onto Malaysia, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands. It was a bit of a whistle-stop tour of Singapore, which saw the Royal couple visit the Botanic Gardens, Gardens by the Bay, the Rolls Royce plant in Seletar, and a HDB block in Queenstown.
Yesterday morning, they completed their tour by paying a visit to the Kranji War Memorial, which is in the north of the island. The memorial is dedicated to the service men and women who died defending Singapore and Malaysia against invasion from the Japanese forces in World War II. Kranji is the final resting place for 4,458 service personnel. You can read more about the memorial here.
The Duke and Duchess arrived to the sound of the Gurkha contingent pipers, before laying a wreath on the memorial, which contains over 24,000 names of Commonwealth casualties.
They then spent some time speaking with some of the war veterans and members of the armed services who are based in Singapore. It was almost impossible to even see them at this point, due to the sudden crush of the crowds, all brandishing smart phones and telescopic lenses! I know that in the UK there is a lot of enthusiasm for the Royals, who have been riding high on a wave of national pride and patriotism ever since William and Catherine got married. I was surprised by the level of support and affection by all of those who were there yesterday. Many of the Singaporean’s I got chatting to knew more about the Royal family than I could possibly! Many of them also knew exactly who designed all of Kate’s outfits and what shoes she was wearing!
After a minute’s silence, whilst The Last Post was played, the couple then walked through the graves, paying special attention to those of Z Special Unit, who Prince William had asked specifically to see.
What was lovely to see was how comfortable they are in each other’s company. They just chatted naturally as they walked quietly around the memorial.
After walking through the graves, it was time for the couple of depart the Memorial, and head off to make preparations for the next leg of their trip, in Malaysia. I spent a little bit of time walking around the memorial myself. It’s a really beautiful and peaceful spot, on a sun-soaked hill, overlooking the city.
After William and Catherine left, the crowds then mobbed anyone who was in uniform. There were two young men who were attached to the Rifles, who had tons of young ladies queuing up to have their photos taken with them. They seemed a little bit bemused by the attention!
I really enjoyed my visit to Kranji War Memorial. It was obviously great to do a little bit of celebrity spotting, and see William and Catherine in the flesh, but it was also a beautiful spot in Singapore, which was great for some quiet reflection. I’d definitely recommend a trip up there if you are looking for some quiet and space to think.
The nicest set of photos I’ve found are on the Asia One website here.
Will recently signed up for Spotify unlimited so we can have new music at our fingertips all the time. It’s been a pretty noisy couple of weeks in our house as a result! One of the more chilled out songs that we both really like has been this track by Stornoway. They are a great little band from Oxford, and I like their chilled but upbeat sound. I particularly like the trumpet on this track.
For those of you who don’t know, ‘zorbing’ involves rolling down a hill in a bit inflatable sphere (see here for more) – sounds like fun!
Back at the end of June we took a trip back home, and then to Italy to see our gorgeous friend’s Tony and Jacquie get married. I had been looking forward to this trip so much – I was going back to England! Only for 24 hours but still… better than nothing.
After touching down at Heathrow at 5am (ouch) we were suddenly sitting in a taxi going down the M4, towards Will’s parent’s house. All around me was the beautiful English dawn, fields either side of the motorway, and SHEEP (how long has it been since I saw a sheep?!). I just couldn’t help the tears that sprang to my eyes – all of this was so beautifully familiar – it was totally overwhelming. I found myself with such an ache in my stomach as I realised just how much I had missed my green and pleasant land. We spent the next 24 hours in the company of family – talking, laughing, catching up on news. We also went to visit the money pit flat, which actually was starting to look like it could be a home again, rather than just a pit of money with damp, crumbling walls.
I can’t tell you how much of a delight it was to see my Mum – to sit and eat lunch in one of Brixton’s gorgeous little eateries, and chat away like no time at all had passed. We then went back to Will’s parent’s place to sit and talk some more. Then my little brother arrived! I will embarrass him now but I have missed him very much indeed. We sat and ate proper English sausages, gorgeous English strawberries and drank cider. It was probably the most blissful afternoon I had spent in a long time. But all too soon it was time for them to leave, and for us to go to bed. My familiarity tank (thanks KJ!) had a much-needed emergency top-up.
The next morning left no time for wistfulness – we were straight back to Heathrow, this time to fly off to Rome. After security we went to find our friends Phil and Sat. Boy can those two give good hugs! It was so great to be back with people you’ve known for years – chatting and bantering away like we’d been away for no time at all. Phil used to live in Australia so he totally gets the expat weird thing which I love. After a short but bumpy flight we landed in Rome. I had forgotten how much I love Italy – the last time I was here was when Will took me for my birthday after I’d finished my finals, so some time ago.
We were in Rome just for a day – time spend eating and wandering around the city, before bumping into more of our friends by the Trevi Foundation (so strange to just be walking in a foreign city and then spot familiar faces).
That evening saw us meeting up with the bridal party, and enjoying some delicious Italian food, before watching Italy make it to the final of Euro 2012! This was followed up by much singing and dancing in some of Rome’s bars.
The next morning, a bit sleep deprived and hungover, we took the train down towards Pienza, where the wedding was going to be held. We were staying in a little agroturismo nearby to the wedding venue. It was a great option for our large group, as we all had our own rooms with en suite, and many of the units had kitchen/living rooms as well.
That evening we went out into Pienza town, which is really picturesque. It kind of clings to the side of a hill, meaning you get the most spectacular views from the town wall. There are lots of twisty little paved streets, and apparently a great cheese shop (although I didn’t make it there myself). It was great just hanging out with friends, enjoying the view and a glass of perfectly chilled white wine.
The next morning we headed over to La Bandita (the wedding venue) early, as Will was doing a reading and they needed him for a run through. I had a great afternoon getting ready with the bride and bridesmaids.
The wedding itself was gorgeous. La Bandita is set up on a hillside, with a big infinity pool – you can see more photos on their website here. They had set up the aisle outside, with a beautiful covered area next to the house where we ate dinner. We had a fantastic time, listening to all the readings and seeing our friend’s pledge to be with each other forever. There were definitely tears (I always cry at weddings!). I will leave you with some photos.
Hello folks. I have decided to take a little break from work on job applications to write a long overdue blog post! I am still job hunting but I have a couple of opportunities on the go which, fingers crossed, may lead to my being gainfully employed again. I will keep you posted…
Anyway, back to the important stuff – the Makansutra Food Safari. Thanks to my pals over at notatourist I got invited to go along on their latest food safari with KF Seetoh. I was lucky enough to meet KF Seetoh back in December last year when I went on a cooking masterclass, but this time, it was all about discovering local food. I really enjoy a lot of Asian food, but sometimes I can get a little bit overwhelmed by all the choice on offer at hawker centres, and also not really knowing what some things are, so I was really looking forward to having my eyes opened and trying some unusual things. I invited along my friend Anna, who will try anything once!
Our first stop was the Lucky Valley Food Court, up near the East Coast road. We tried the Muah Chee, which are tiny rice flour dumpling cooked in palm oil and then rolled in different types of chopped nuts. The stand is tiny, tucked away and looks like nothing on first appearance. I suppose I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover! The owner here takes pride in that each dumpling is hand pulled. He starts with a bowl of dough and then uses a ‘plucking’ motion to create the dumplings. We tried the peanut and black sesame versions.
The dumplings were delicious and moreish. They were warm, sweet, nutty and crunchy. Each mouthful is bite-sized, meaning that it is really easy to eat lots in a short space of time. While we were there, we also got to sample some Cheng Tng. I’d never heard of this before, but its a light refreshing soup, made with a list of ingredients as long as my arm! All of the ingredients are said to have cooling qualities, and it is served cold. The soup is sweet with rock sugar, and then ginko nuts, wintermelon, sago balls, longons, persimmons and sweet potato is added. There were other ingredients but I can’t remember them all! I enjoyed the soup – it was something really different and unusual. It is odd to a Western palate to have a cold, sweet soup, but it was very refreshing, and Anna & I agreed that it did a great job of cooling us down, on a muggy evening.
You can try both of these dishes at Bedok Avenue 3, Block 69
After enjoying some sweet treats, we headed off towards Geylang, to visit Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant. This restaurant is dedicated to serving authentic Peranakan cuisine, and has been doing so since 1953. First up, we tried some otak otak, which is a kind of fish cake, which is made by mixing fish paste with things like garlic, chillies, lemongrass and coconut milk. It is then wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed until its cooked. It was soft, fishy and spicy – a great starter – although I would’ve liked it with something fresh and crunchy to add a little contrasting texture.
After that, we tried a really special dish – Ayam Buah Keluak. This is a chicken dish that is served with the Buah Keluak nut. This nut is actually poisonous and needs to be soaked at least overnight before being served. It has a black shell and to make the dish, the nut is soaked for 24 hours, then cracked open. The contents is then mixed with minced chicken and spices, before being stuffed back into the nut shell. It is then cooked with the chicken in a stew. The nut has a very distinctive earthy flavour – KF Seetoh described it as tasting like eating mud! It’s definitely earthy, but I actually found it very tasty and I’d like to try it again.
You can try both these dishes at Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant, 38-40 Joo Chiat Place.
Our final stop was the East Coast Lagoon Food Village. I’d not ever been up to East Coast park for food before, except to eat chilli crab at the Jumbo’s up there with Will’s sister. I had no idea there were so many eateries to be found there. When KF Seetoh had said we would be eating chilli crab, I think we all rolled our eyes slightly. Despite being one of Singapore’s famous dishes, I’ve not been overwhelmed with chilli crab. I enjoy it, but I don’t think I’d eat it all the time as I find the sauce a bit sweet and lacking in kick. Boy, was I about to be proved wrong.
We went to another innocuous looking stall – Leng Heng BBQ Seafood & Claypot Deluxe. We tried the chilli crab and … OMG. The sauce was full of chilli! It was super spicy and even two Singaporean guys that ended up on our table said it was spicy for them! The sauce tasted completely different to any chilli crab I had tried before. Apparently this is because they are one of the few places that still make their sauce from scratch, and don’t buy it bottled. I know understand why chilli crab has such a legendary reputation – the sweet crab with that super punchy sauce gives a massive taste explosion in the mouth.
You can try this yummy chilli crab at Leng Heng BBQ Seafood & Claypot Deluxe, 1220 East Coast Parkway, Stall 6, East Coast Lagoon Food Village
Before trying this dish, I’d never really understood the Singaporean thing of travelling all the way across the island to enjoy what they think is the ‘best’, but I have to say I’d definitely make the journey out east to try this again.Whilst we were eating our dinner, Anna & I made a new friend of the granddaughter of the stall owner. A budding photographer from the looks of this shot!
Thanks to notatourist and SingTel for the kind invitation, and for the lovely Anna accompanying me and sharing some of her photos. She has actually just launched her own styling company, Polished Presence, complete with its own gorgeous blog which you can check out here.
First of all – an apology. I went to Beerfest way back on the 9th June, but then due to my camera having suffered at the hands of a foam finger, requiring a brand new lens, I am only posting this now. Anyway, back to Beerfest.
Beerfest Asia is now in its 4th year, and is held at the Marina Promenade (near the Singapore Flyer), which is also part of the F1 track. It plays host to a huge variety of beers, but also includes ciders, wines and spirits. So there really is something for everyone. But of course, the main event is definitely the beer. There were 350 different beers from around the world on offer! Although we couldn’t possibly sample all of them (I think that would have involved an ambulance if we’d even tried) we certainly had a lot of fun trying out lots of the ones that were on offer.
I was lucky enough to receive a pair of VIP tickets, and we had also won a pair of complimentary tickets at a pub quiz a couple of weeks previous, so it meant a few of us were able to go along and get beer sampling! Being a VIP meant we had our own dedicated bar, free-flow of beer, and a VIP goody bag to take home.
We tried a whole host of different beers that were on offer. I opted to try some of the fruit beers that were available, having enjoyed some in London in the past. I found the strawberry beer a bit too sweet for my liking, but there was a grapefruit beer that I loved – not too sweet or too sharp, just nice and refreshing. We also tried a couple of different types of Pilsner and the Kirin beer.
We then settled in to enjoy the Beerfest atmosphere – it was probably one of the most raucous evenings I’ve had in Singapore! Everybody seemed to be in a good mood and we really enjoyed the live music that was going on. It was great to be with friends, drink good beer, and let it rip on the dancefloor!
We then had even more hilarity as the competitions started on stage. My friend Mark won the competition for doing the loudest and longest ‘Beerfeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssssssssssssttttttttttttt’ (Go Mark – woohoo!) and Nav managed to win ‘Hairiest Chest’, which I think he clinched by doing some topless Bollywood dancing! I won’t shame them by putting photos up…instead, here’s me in my Fruli hard-hat!
I think without a doubt, our evening at Beerfest was one of the best evenings I’ve had in Singapore. If you get the chance to go next year, I would thoroughly recommend it as it really is a good night out, and I’m sure if you are more of beer connoisseur than I am you will appreciate all the choice on offer.