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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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.

 

Gear Review ~ Lodge Dutch Oven

Overlanders depend on their gear. After all, most of us are homeless in the traditional sense. The road is our home, and the gear we travel with can make or break the trip. As very active campers even in our old life, we were quite certain what cooking gear was going to make the list for the PanAm. Although we quibbled over and considered a few items, one item never in doubt was our Lodge Dutch Oven.

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A Bucket List Weekend in Jakarta

Most travelers have a bucket list. I have been lucky enough to have checked quite a few off my personal list, but one place I have not yet reached is Jakarta. The 13,000 islands of Indonesia are astonishing, and having spent a month in serene Bali, my dreams now turn to city life. Enter Jakarta, the massive capital on Java, the mixes cultural influences from around the world.

image via Flickr by Stenly Lam

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Inevitable Comparisons

I know I shouldn’t compare. I know I should live in the moment, focus on what is in front of me, not develop a “been there, done that” mentality. And yet, the more I travel, the more these inevitable comparisons raise their ugly head.

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The Couple, the Myth ~ The Overlander Oasis Experience

We have a sticker on our camper that reads “I camped at Overlander Oasis“.  This is a lie. However, while the camping part is not technically true, we did spend enough time with Calvin and Leanne to feel as though we were part of their overlander family.

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Seeking Home in Puerto Vallarta

Written in cooperation with GoodSearch.

Puerto Vallarta is not new to me. I have spent more time here than anywhere else on Earth but home. While some complain about the vast growth of the city over the years, I find that much of what I love has remained constant over time.

For the vacationer, Puerto Vallarta surely has it all: excellent dining, an endless array of activities, world-class hotels, and fantastic nightlife. In addition to all of the well-known and well-documented choices, I’d like to share a few of my insider tips to make your paradise vacation truly special.

image via Flickr by luckylynda74

Old Town

Old Town, or the Romantic Zone if you prefer the new moniker, is not a secret. Nearly everyone at some point wanders across the bridge to check it out. Sadly, few take the time to discover the hidden gems, such as A Page in the Sun. Part used book exchange, part coffee shop, A Page in the Sun has been a Puerto Vallarta institution for over 20 Luisyears. Now in a new and larger location, it continues to draw us in for breakfast and friendly conversation.

 

Weekend Brunch with a View

Many amazing restaurants in town offer lovely views, but for THE best combination of a killer view and a unique experience, take a cab south of town to Casa Karma. This boutique hotel also offers up gorgeous rooms, but we go for the Bloody Mary bar! Each weekend, the Bar at Casa Karma whips up the most amazing “make your own” Bloody Mary bar we have ever seen. You start out with a delicious Bloody Mary, and you can add as many additions as you like — bacon, artichoke hearts, pickled asparagus, pearl onions, blue cheese-stuffed olives, and the list goes on. Admittedly, this is not a traditional take on brunch. You will certainly leave Casa Karma both pleasantly full and happy.

image via Flickr by cogdogblog

A Dress of Many Colors

One of my frequent stops is Luisa’s clothing store. Located on Juarez Street in the Zona Centro, Luisa has been one of the best seamstresses in Puerto Vallarta for years. Her storefront is artistically packed with dresses and shirts and scarves in every color of the rainbow. While you can go in and simply buy off the rack, the normal procedure is that you choose what you like, try it on for fit, and then Luisa will custom-fit that piece for you. Or, if you want turquoise, not green, for instance, she will simply whip up one just for you. She speaks excellent English, is knowledgeable about events around town, and is a joy to work with. Her clothes are well done, comfortable, and ready in a matter of days for a fair price. I am proud to say I have more than a couple of “Luisa originals.”

 

Of Tacos and Tango

To be truthful, for visitors doing research, El Carboncito is not a secret. However, in all of our trips there, we have rarely seen any tourists, so now the word is officially out. I love tacos, and I especially love tacos al pastor, which is meat slow-cooked on a skewer, served up on a freshly made tortilla with a slice of grilled pineapple, chopped cilantro, and fresh salsa. A squeeze of lime is mandatory.
The very best tacos al pastor I have found throughout Mexico come from El Carboncito, on a small side street in central Puerto Vallarta. Sitting in white plastic chairs, surrounded by chattering locals, eating two, or four, of these gems just makes me happy. For THE perfect evening out, so perfect, in fact, and that it is how we spent our anniversary this year, we walked down to El Carboncito’s for tacos, before heading for mojitos and tango at La Bodeguita del Medio. Technically, it’s salsa, not tango, but nonetheless, this is my favorite bar in Puerto Vallarta. I generally am not awake late enough to fully appreciate the dancing that randomly breaks out, but the live salsa band, excellent mojitos, and friendly staff are enough to keep me coming back for more.

image via Flickr by leduardo

 

My Puerto Vallarta doesn’t consist of the typical visitor’s experience. Having visited so many times before, I have experienced first-class resorts, and done the sightseeing. These days, I want to meander side streets and find the true soul of the city.

 

Calling all Camp Cooks

I was beyond THRILLED to be asked by Truck Camper Magazine to write an article on camp cooking in our Adventurer camper. One of our biggest draws in traveling is experiencing food all around the world. However, as someone who loves to cook, the idea of another extended trip without access to a kitchen was unacceptable, and one big reason we decided to drive this time.

If you missed it, check out the article, and be sure to subscribe for our new Newsletter that we will be putting out monthly with travel tips, recipes, and travel inspiration!

Gourmet Cooking on the Road

Gourmet Cooking on the Road

Let me know what you think, and what sorts of articles you’d like to see!

The DREAM of Location Independence… is it?

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 9

I know, I know.. I”m a day behind in my challenge quest. My adventure challenge turned into a two day jaunt between the mountains, and a surf camp on the Pacific!

Now I am back in the land of the internet and ready to continue my blog challenge! I expected Natalie’s 10 Day challenge to become more, well, challenging as it progressed. In my case, what to write about is getting easier because I am already living a nomadic, location independent life!

And here is what I’ve learned. It’s HARD. Life balance is a mystery to most folks, even if that life involves a 9-5, and relatively set schedule. Something always seems to take a back seat in the quest to make 24 hours last longer. Often that is exercise. Or seeing friends. Or spending time with your significant other.

Magnify these challenges with life on the road. Now, as Natalie states in her video for day 9, there are many ways to live a location independent life. Whereas at this time we are very, very nomadic, our end goal is actually to start making a good enough living to live anywhere we want in the world, at any time we wish.

However, for now I will just address my life as it exists today. These last two days is a mere snippet of what our daily life entails. Travel days are simply hard. We do our best; we have the camper nearly ready to go the night before. We get up early. We eat a quick breakfast. We start the day with a positive mindset. Often, it all goes well. Yesterday, it did not.

Two days ago, we spent over three hours attempting to send money to our house rental in Guatemala… unsuccessfully I might add. We are still trying to work it.

After a lovely evening at Hierve de Aqua, high in the hills of the Oaxaca Valley, we prepared to head towards the state of Chiapas, which requires heading to the Gulf of Mexico, or the Pacific. We chose the Pacific and spent seven hours driving a mere 180 miles, along endlessly scenic, but also endlessly winding roads. The views were stunning, but by hour 5.5, as the heat index rose, and the exhaustion of Mexico driving kicked in, crankiness ensued. By the time we reached camp the temperature on the dash read 102 degrees, and I think the temperature in the truck may have been even hotter as tempers flared.

We had been advised the camp had internet. I needed to check emails and write this post. It didn’t. Aspen was melting into a ball of black fur. Sweat ran like torrential downpour down my body as we got a quick camp set up. I was angry. Angry at the lack of internet. Angry at the 10 minute walk to the actual ocean. Angry at Jim, for no other reason than I couldn’t very well be pissed at Aspen right? Angry at the heat.

And then we took some deep breaths. We had a tequila shot. Then an ice cold beer. We found a place in the shade where the breeze hit and spent some time reading. I took Aspen into the shower to wet her down, and reduce her panting. We chatted with the surfers in residence, mostly about the heat. I started to focus on the joy of not “having” to do anything, at least for now.

Today, we were back on the road. After a warm night, we headed first to the beach so Aspen could fetch coconuts in the Pacific. We once again headed to the verdant green hills to Chiapas state. The feared roadblocks and protests failed to surface, and the road was smooth, and relatively straight. Tempers stayed in check, and the temperature at camp was manageable. Back in the land of Wi-Fi, the laptop once again reigns as I return emails, check work deadlines, and write this post while we catch up with the last couple of weeks of Master Chef.

The life nomadic requires the utmost in flexibility. It requires ordinary challenges made extraordinary with language barriers and cultural differences. It requires discipline and the ability to deal with slow, or nonexistent, internet. It requires patience and tolerance and a very, very strong desire to make it work.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. That dream of “location independent” is real. The ability to choose when and where I work is a treasure like no other. After decades of being forced to pretend to work until my shift was over, after having to go to work the day after Thanksgiving, even when nothing would be happening. Those days are over. Yes, I am now working at 8pm on a Monday night. But I am sitting in Chiapas, Mexico. I am cozy in my camper with my husband, watching Master Chef and dreaming of new dishes to create. Aspen is nestled in for the night, after finishing off a special chew bone reward after being extremely patient herself these last two days.

At some point, my version of location independence is bound to change. I envision a continuation of my globe trotting ways, but perhaps house rentals for several months at a time. Perhaps a set location, with multiple trips each year to exotic destinations. Where the road will lead, I am uncertain. What I AM certain of, is there is no going back!