The change of pace has been noticeable. Whisked away from London in some style on BA ( a windfall trip first class), I find Singapore surprisingly cool and pleasant. There’s a stiff breeze on our 11th floor balcony, and my plants are swishing and swooshing while the sunbirds chirp a merry greeting several times a day. The orchids have sprouted great long flower stems and I can admire them as I sit on my chaise longue, reading my friend Sarah Helm’s harrowing story of Ravensbruck death camp, If This Is A Woman. At times I weep from the gratuitous cruelty of this untold story. Continue reading
WordPress.com prepared a 2014 annual report for my blog. In sheer size of viewing numbers they surmise that the concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people; vickygoestravelling was viewed about 18,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it. That’s quite a good feeling! Keep clicking please…
Here are the most viewed blogs, illustrating the ups and downs of the year – which has ended nevertheless on a high! Clear health, on my skis again, despite being taken out TWICE in one week by beginners, and now having a duvet day to try and rest my poor old back, bum and shoulder, which are all covered in bruises! But I will not be deterred and will venture out when it’s quieter tomorrow, New Year’s Day, when everyone is hung-over! Continue reading
It’s been non-stop visitors since we got back, in case you were wondering what had become of me! First Cindy and Guy from Mumbai, then Louise’s best friend Lulu dropped in after doing some extraordinary free diving to create an underwater apsara installation to celebrate reef protection in Bali, and now Christine and Diego are here for a week before we set off for Burma next weekend. Continue reading
It’s here at last! after months of grafting, cooking, testing, tasting and photographing. Thanks to husband Ross for being so patient in all of these tasks and for being a great webmaster.
Please follow and, more importantly, spread the word amongst any friends and family you think it might help – it’s all about the power of positive thinking to help you recover from cancer. For foodies there are loads of new recipes, all extremely healthy. There’s even some proper scientific back-up for this holistic approach, with periodic blogs by ‘the doc’.
All comments and suggestions welcome – on the site of course! Continue reading
It’s always the waiting and hoping that’s the worst part of anything medical. Luckily for us my waiting is punctuated with a visit from Tommy and his girlfriend, Olivia, en route to Sabah for a holiday. They stop here for the weekend and we tick off some of the tourist boxes – black pepper crab, the Botanic Gardens, a dim sum lunch, lunch in hawker centre, mum’s home cooking. It seems like they had hardly arrived before they left again – but they will be back. Continue reading
In this post we welcome old friends to stay in our new apartment and celebrate my birthday…
After almost 9 months here on and off, we feel we can show people round, and at least know where to go to eat! Ross was away in Basel for the first few days, so we enjoyed the vibrancy of the Naitonal Orchid Garden in sunshine; followed by a delicious lunch in the nearby restaurant, only to be interrupted by massive thunderstorm. Poor old Mr and Mrs B had forgotten their umbrellas so got very wet indeed!
Dodging showers and trying to find taxis seemed to be the biggest challenges of this visit; nevertheless we areyet again stunned by the Gardens on the Bay; lunch in one of the Supertrees affords a sumptuous view. Not as good as the viewing platform at Marina Bay Sands which had to be done despite black clouds all around.
Chinatown is also a must-see in SIngapore, poking round the tat stalls nevertheless affords good bargains while, at the higher end, the intricacies of a specialist tea shop delight. Here Clare bought a dead ringer for the Hare with the Amber Eyes teapot…My more prosaic larger elephant teapot is perfect for more than two people! Thanks Clare!
It has to be done, that famous Singapore Sling. So off to Raffles with some of Mr B’s visiting friends – far too sweet for me and, I gather, all pre-made so a bit of a production line. But the Long Bar is a fun place, even if rather full or tourists, like us! Afterwards to a real find, specialist Peranakan/Straits Malay restaurant, Blue Ginger, where we let the waiter do the ordering and we eat greedily and with gusto.
And so the the birthday: preceding night dinner we feast on chilli crab at Jumbo Seafoods in Boat Quay; then Sunday lunch at one of our favourites, Din Tai Fung, the Taiwanese dumpling house (not as good as the original one in Taipei, but still yummy); and then 20 or so new-found friends, plus one or two older ones from university days, for drinks. As it was Diwali, I ordered samosas, bhajis and pakoras, promptly delivered by Omar Shariff (I wish it was really he, that would have been the best birthday present ever!), and Mr and Mrs B made a few blinis, while Lucie G brought a delicious cake! (see picture up top)
But not all play, dear readers: Mr B had lots of meetings and went out clad in a suit, much to our amusement; while Mrs B, aka Clare Cooper of Art First, and I had a Board meeting and strategy summit on my sofa while I rested my leg on a hot water bottle.
Don’t laugh, you hear me right – I have a large haemotoma on my calf which means I can’t walk or stand for long. A challenge for Monday’s induction meeting at the Tanglin Club which involved a lot of standing about…and even more of a challenge for next weekend’s visit to Mumbai, for our diving in Sulawesi the following week…and the ski season. Painful physio and ultrasound on the menu to try and get my leg back…
I will keep you updated!
These extraordinary gardens, part of Singapore’s strategy to transform itself from being a Garden City to a City in a Garden, were only opened in 2011, after an international competition which was, in part, won by a firm of Bath landscape architects. As Robin Lane Fox said in last weekend’s FT, why on earth did we in London not use our own talent to create a similar legacy in the Millennium Dome Gardens? Which have now been ploughed over…after £1bn was spent on them.
The major defining landmark of these gardens are the enormous metal ‘Supertrees’, with a 22m high suspended walkway, which overlooks the bay. At night time they are lit up like fairyland! While not yet mature enough, you can see the idea is to have a living vertical carpet of plants – orchids, bromeliads, begonias etc growing up towards the respective crowns. Stunning.
The other highlight is the Cloud Forest, a recreated highland plant environment, with a 35m gushing waterfall and the cold damp climate of tropical rain-forest and montane areas – again spectacular orchids, pitcher plants, and fine totems from East Timor.
The gallery of photos should give you some idea of this amazing place – even if only taken with my little iPhone. Ross’s website – see link opposite – has much better photos!
Bangalore is India’s 3rd largest city, IT capital and has a population of 8.5m. As one of the top 10 entrepreneurial hubs IN THE WORLD you might expect it to be Hi Tech City but, no, it is a sprawling hotch potch of ugly buildings interspersed with slums and clogged by horrendous traffic. When you think it used to be a hill station, a green and cool refuge from the sweltering heat of the Deccan plains, home of Tippu Sultan, and was laid out with wondrous gardens and Mogul buildings, you want to weep.
In role as accompanying spouse, was herded into back of plane while husband sipped champers in the front, but on arrival found ourselves in 5 star hotel; alas much advertised infinity pool empty of water (victim of playing over-exhuberant Holi), so had to settle for 3 mornings in gym with personal trainer Ramesh, who certainly put me through my paces while watching a Jackie Chan film; a massage and pedicure; and then to while away the hours by sight-seeing toute seule! Any down time spent reading and cataloguing Mama’s letters – now up to mid-1946, but only one mention of my father so far, whom she married by the year-end! its very exciting, actually, like reading a novel….
Not normally a shrinking violet, and put off by recent press stories of rapes and general nastiness, decided to act the Memsahib and take a car and driver because it had a) aircon and b) driver who spoke English! In fact I made three sorties and learned a lot about life in Bangalore: for instance, there is only water for 2-3 hours per day; one driver comes 90 kms daily by train to work, leaving at 4 am; despite being predominantly Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities live happily side by side -‘its all politics’, that most road accidents – of which there are surprisingly few – only happen when drunk, and usually at night; on the other had the standard of English is distinctly ropey and it took me ages to work out that all these ‘world’ things meant simply ‘old’! Acha!
Off to Shiva temple, where led down dingy, dark and pee-smelling corridors with display of linga temples in India, compete with mechanised snakes, buffaloes and even the Lord Shiva himself, waving at me…very tacky indeed. Head branded with sandalwood, lit a candle and threw holy sticks on fire, and circled a shrine three times, for Louise; and said lots of prayers as urged by various priests.
Then to 400 year old Bull Temple complete with huge eponymous granite figure – again advised by priest to make donation for ‘good luck’. Hmmm. Drove around for hours at snail’s pace, glimpsed various Churches and the historic National Parliament building (why does traffic always speed up at crucial moment, or huge bus/lorry get in the way?), the Vidhana Souda, surrounded by wire and fences so invisible – see pathetic attempt at photo.
Highlight was Bangalore Palace, still with resident Maharajah (offshoot of much grander Mysore Palace family). Took some illegal photos; a soap opera was being filmed which was fun to see.
Determined to get some lovely new kurtas for me and shirts for Ross, driver instructed to find Fabindia…oh no, here is much better ‘local’ shop, guess what, run by Kashmiris! I have every sympathy for the poor old Kashmiris, but they seem to have a baksheesh deal with all drivers in India; the next day ditto!
Finally I found Fabindia within 10 minutes of our hotel (wah!), and very pleased with my purchases. And bought some spices to take back to Singapore.
So now to the big rip off! Frustrated by driver on day one not allowing me out much – ‘nothing to see, too expensive’ etc etc, decided as such an expert of Botanical Gardens, simply had to see the Lal Bagh (red gardens), second largest in India at 240 acres, with a replica of the Crystal Palace glass house, famous rose garden and trees planted by heroes ranging from QE2, to Nehru and Indira Gandhi.
Slightly nervous on my own (wasn’t sure what to expect) and concierge no use at all in 5 star hotel – I had read there were buggies that you could go round on, they said not, and best thing to get a guide, driver would organise. So after an hour in standstill traffic, arrived, found guide, who said he would charge R550 for 30 mins and R1100 for the hour. Driver said this was right (crumbs, I thought, it’s a small fortune in India, but what to do?). Agreed and he took me off, and started the old sob story about parents being ill, the while picking flowers and leaves (strictly forbidden I noted) and was rather objectionable. Anyway he showed me round, insisted on taking loads of photos of me ‘say cheese!'(some here for you to laugh at) and then pounced on me to pay him when least expecting it…fumbling with money I ended up giving him just about all I had as he was breathing down my neck and could see what was in my purse. Wah, wah, wah! What a fool! I felt intimidated though…and then had to stop on the way back to get some more cash from an ATM as a tip for the driver!
Still feeling furious and writing blog to exorcise this demon…
Not sure I will come back to Bangalore; it is not India’s finest monument to development, in fact it is distinctly depressing seeing all the huge malls, apartment and office blocks going up everywhere, and now, having done my homework and read Dalrymple’s Age of Kali and Tully’s India in Slow Motion (both out of date but recommend), feel thoroughly disheartened by all the corruption that goes on, everywhere, all the time e.g. the lack of water, planning permission, half-finished metros and flyovers everywhere, just to name a few obvious ones), and the gap between rich and poor simply gets wider…nevertheless India is a fascinating place, so much energy, lovely people (on the whole!) and I am returning in one month, to Hyderabad and Mumbai…