Lessons Learned ~ 426 days on the road and where to next?

Today I sit in Los Barriles, Baja, Mexico. Exactly where I sat 1 year ago today. It is no new news that our compass appears not just broken but totally deranged, leading us back here and not south to Central America where we were sure you would find us about now. There have been a lot of memorable moments and lessons learned from these last 426 days on the road~ not the least of which is that life is uncertain.

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Volunteering Abroad ~ Guatemala

We knew that when we headed out for a life on the road that we wanted to spend time volunteering in the places we explored. We had done a variety of volunteer work back in Oregon from Habitat to Humanity to Fences for Fidos to cooking for the families at the Ronald McDonald House. Volunteering abroad is not much different, and our time with the Guatemala Housing Alliance one of our favorite memories of Lake Atitlan.

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The Myth of Mexico in the Media

It has been nearly 14 months since we crossed the border south into Mexico. Nearly 14 months of fascinating history, delicious food, gorgeous countryside, and friendly people. Nearly 14 months and thousands of miles covering all of Baja and the vast majority of the mainland. During our time there, we have been disheartened again and again with the negative media regarding this most beloved destination. The myths of Mexico as highlighted in the media are profound.

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The Versatile Blogger Award

What a great life we lead! We slept in a bit this morning after the fun of the 2nd annual La Ventana hot dog crawl and a few too many cocktails. The sun was peeking its way over the horizon on the Sea of Cortez and it was just chilly enough to really enjoy our cup of brew as we meandered the beach watching Aspen chase her coconut. The wander home culminated in the wonderful surprise of seeing Kato & George from 2born2travel had nominated us for the Versatile Blogger Award!

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A Year of Coddiwomple

In 2015 my word for the year ahead was transformation and wow, did we ever do it up right. We sold our house and the majority of our material goods, we moved into our camper and headed south to points unknown in search of a different lifestyle.

2016 found me choosing surprise as my word for the year and, once again, the universe provided. In fact, no one is more surprised than I to find myself not somewhere in southern Central America, but back in Mexico!

For 2017 I may have found the perfect word to truly describe not just the year ahead, but a more general thought on our life in general:

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AirBnB Review ~ 7 Volcanoes

When we started researching Lake Atitlan we knew we were spending one month in a cottage at Pasajcap, however with our friends Pete & Natasha still residing in our cottage rental for a bit, I reached out to the San Marcos Facebook page in search of lodging for the beginning of our time at the lake. We needed a dog friendly apartment with secure parking, a potential deal breaker in tiny San Marcos.

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The Streets of San Marcos on Lake Atitlan ~ Guatemala

The memories of our time in San Marcos, on Lake Atitlan, are still fresh in our minds although we reluctantly left her shores nearly one month ago. Scanning photos of our time there brought a renewed look with fresh eyes on just how stunning it was to walk the narrow, winding pathways of town. Guatemala is stunning..here are a few visual souvenirs for you all to enjoy.

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As with any routine is is easy to become jaded and stop actually “seeing” what is around you.

Never fear, San Marcos, we will be back!

Singapore Destination Guide

Originally published on IHG’s Guide to Singapore.

Visiting Singapore – A City Guide

Modern, prosperous and dynamic, Singapore is a global hub for finance, high-tech industry and international trade. If you’re visiting on holiday, it’s a shopper’s haven and a foodie’s dream, with gleaming malls and a legendary food scene that takes in everything from Chinese, Malay and Indian street food to sophisticated fine-dining restaurants.

If you’ve an urge to explore, you can discover the island’s multicultural heritage in Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam and the grand colonial buildings of the Civic District. You’ll also find plenty of beachside activities, rainforest parks, a thriving arts scene and 21st-century attractions like Gardens By The Bay.


Singapore: city layout

Shaped like a diamond, Singapore combines towering skyscrapers, traditional communities and modern waterfront developments.

image via Flickr by ^Joe

Restored 19th-century colonial buildings are clustered in the city and Civic District near the Singapore River, with Chinatown close by. Little India and Kampong Glam are found to the north of the city and head east for the popular local suburbs of Geylang and Joo Chiat.

There’s an extensive network of nature reserves and parks throughout the island. Holidaymakers are drawn to islands such as Pulau Ubin for nature trails and bike tracks as well as Sentosa island, connected to central Singapore via a bridge, for seaside entertainment and theme parks.


Top attractions in Singapore

The beautifully landscaped Gardens By The Bay is home to the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome greenhouses, filled with blooms from across the world. Don’t miss the OCBC Skyway, a walkway set among 18 ‘supertree’ sculptures, which comes alive after dark with a magical light display.

For a relaxing day out, head to Sentosa island to soak up the sun on the beach, enjoy a leisurely round of golf or brave the thrilling rides at the Universal Studios Singapore theme park.

image via Flickr by Jira Matousek

Singapore Zoo is home to white tigers, honey-loving sun bears and African lions. You can spot the giant pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia, at the River Safari, or nocturnal leopards on the Night Safari.

For a bird’s eye view of Singapore head to the Singapore Flyer, a 165-metre observation wheel with 360-degree views of the island.


The concierge recommends…

  • A walk around Marina Bay to enjoy the city’s night lights.
  • A stroll through the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site housing lush themed gardens with more than 1,000 species of orchid.
  • A food tour through the well-loved haunts in Chinatown, Geylang Serai, Joo Chiat or Kampong Glam.
  • A visit to Pulau Ubin, a kampong (traditional) village off the coast near Changi Airport.
  • Booking tickets for a traditional dance performance, a play or a concert at the iconic Esplanade arts centre.


Hotels in Singapore

For your stay in Singapore there are hotels that will suit every budget and travel need. The city’s efficient transport system makes travelling around a breeze, and it’s easy to find hotels within walking distance of a train station.

If you want to be in the thick of the action, pick a central location like Orchard Road, Singapore’s most famous shopping street, or close to the energetic nightlife hubs around Clarke Quay, Robertson Quay or Club Street. For a budget hotel in Singapore you’ll find good choices in Little India and Kampong Glam.

Singapore hotels in the central business district (CBD) or at Bugis, Outram Road and North Bridge Road are good for business travellers, with plenty of entertainment nearby.

Families might appreciate the quieter residential areas with easy access to the centre, like Tiong Bahru and River Valley, or a beachside retreat on Sentosa.


Eating Out in Singapore

Singapore’s culinary scene lies at the heart of local life. Choices range from Chinese, Indian and Asian street food at budget-friendly hawker centres in Maxwell Road, Lau Pa Sat and Tiong Bahru Market to award winning fine-dining restaurants like Restaurant Andre or Tippling Club.

For a special night out, try a rooftop restaurant such as Stellar at 1-Altitude to enjoy panoramic city views while you feast on modern European or Asian fare.

If you’re looking for an authentic Singaporean experience, BonAppetour organises trips to local families’ homes for a traditional meal, as well as gourmet cooking classes.


The chef recommends…

  • Chilli Crab: Sweet, savoury and spicy, this dish is prepared by stir-frying crabs in tomato and chilli sauce. Best eaten with fried mantous (Chinese buns).
  • Hainanese Chicken Rice: Steamed chicken, rice cooked in rich chicken broth and cucumber slices make up this beloved national dish. Spicy chilli and ginger paste is the perfect accompaniment.
  • Laksa: This delicious Peranakan soup consists of rice noodles, spices and seafood cooked in creamy coconut milk.
  • Bah Kut Teh or “meat bone tea”, prepared by simmering pork ribs in broth filled with herbs and spices.

image via Flickr by Calgary Reviews

Shopping in Singapore

Singapore’s vibrant local shopping streets and glitzy international malls should satisfy even the most demanding of shoppers.

Around Orchard Road you’ll find glamorous malls like Takashimaya, Paragon and Ngee Ann City, filled with high-end boutiques, luxury labels and gourmet food products. For popular local brands try exploring central malls like Marina Square, Millenia Walk or Raffles City Complex.

If you’re on the lookout for souvenirs, you can pick up Asian antiques, artworks and colourful fabrics along the quirky streets of Little India, Chinatown and Kampong Glam.


Local shopping in Singapore:

  • Ann Siang Hill: The historic streets around Ann Siang Hill and Telok Ayer are lined with independent boutiques selling unique clothing, fashion accessories and home ornaments.
  • Haji Lane: Designer boutiques selling modern and vintage fashion and lifestyle accessories have transformed this narrow alley in Kampong Glam.
  • Bugis Village: Its crowded lanes are home to a labyrinth of stores in restored shophouses, selling everything from fashion to food and electronics. Ideal for shoppers on a budget.


Culture & Nightlife in Singapore

Singapore’s cultural scene reflects its unique racial mix. The streets of Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India are filled with traditional shophouses and temples. A trip to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Sri Mariamman Temple or Sultan Mosque provides a glimpse into the religious traditions of the local Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim communities. You’ll find throngs of devotees in traditional garments playing musical instruments at Sri Mariamman’s frequent temple processions.

You can trace Singapore’s history through the art, artefacts and multimedia displays at the National Museum of Singapore. Traditional Chinese beadwork, porcelain and sarong kebaya dresses are on display at the Peranakan Museum.

Singapore nightlife takes in everything from sleek rooftop bars to chic beachside hangouts and stylish nightclubs. For an evening of feasting and late-night revelry head to Clarke Quay orClubStreet. The vibe is quieter at Robertson Quay, or at Dempsey Hill, where a relaxed evening can be enjoyed.


Live music venues in Singapore

  • Blu Jaz Cafe: Jazz lovers flock to this funky bar for its live music, as well as R&B, hip-hop and Latin dance parties.
  • Timbre: There are three Timbre venues in Singapore, with regular performances by local and international bands.
  • Catch a free concert from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, held at venues such as the Botanic Gardens.


Leisure in Singapore

Lovers of the outdoors can find plenty to please in Singapore’s parks. You can rent a bike and follow the island-wide park connector network. You’ll enjoy coastal views, tropical greenery and cooling breezes on a ride from East Coast Park to the popular Changi Village Food Centre, which dishes up some of the best nasi lemak (coconut rice) on the island.

Nature lovers can take a treetop walk on the suspension bridge at MacRitchie Reservoir, a leisurely stroll around the hilltop at Fort Canning Park or enjoy panoramic views of the city from the Southern Ridges.

For families, the landscaped roof of the Marina Barrage, looking out over the city and Marina Bay, is a popular spot for picnics and kite flying. Ride the Singapore Cable Car over to Sentosa resort for beach watersports, golf, theme parks and views of the harbour from the Imbiah lookout.

Thrill seekers can try indoor skydiving at iFly Singapore on Sentosa or hurtle through the air in a reverse bungy or GX-5 extreme swing at Clarke Quay. Get closer to nature in the Bedok Reservoir and tackle the family friendly treetop ziplines at the Forest Adventure.

To eat as the Singaporeans do, head to a local cafe for a breakfast of kaya toast and soft boiled eggs. For a Sunday treat, try one of Singapore’s famous Champagne brunches at Garibaldi or Catalunya.


Best eats in Singapore

    • Tong Ah Eating House: This cafe serves up slices of crispy kaya toast and cups of smooth, fragrant kopi (traditional coffee).
    • Chinatown Food Street: Great for street-side dining on local delicacies like hokkien mee and roti prata.
    • Kok Sen Restaurant: This old-school dining establishment turns out some of the tastiest Cantonese wok-fried dishes on the island.
    • Din Tai Fung: This Taiwanese dumpling house has taken Singapore by storm with branches throughout the island.

 

A Lesson in Coffee Production ~ Guatemala Style

I was never one to appreciate coffee, just as I was in my mid 20’s before I developed a taste for beer. I totally blame this on my parents. Growing up in small town Minnesota with Folgers instant coffee and restaurants, ok lets be honest and call them truck stops, chosen merely for offering a bottomless cup of bad coffee did not inspire the desire to imbibe. In addition, my parents also drank this bad coffee loaded with milk and sugar as one does, of course, when drinking crap.

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Campground Review ~ Casa Pierre at Pasajcap

Pasajcap really needs little introduction from me. Every overlander around is familiar with the stunning views and friendly service given by Pierre and his wonderful staff. Despite the title, we didn’t actually camp at Pasajcap. Pierres three beautiful shepherds are lovely dogs, but not always as fond of having doggie visitors. Thus, we were “forced” to rent one of his ten gorgeous accommodation options; in our case, cottage # 3 from the gate.

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