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Entries about friends

Singapore's obsession with shopping centres

sunny

Singapore is well known for its many many shopping centres. They are honestly everywhere, and every single one is huge. I wouldn't be surprised if every retailer from all over the world has a store there.

I'm curious to know whether they all make a profit. It was interesting speaking to my friend; as we got to Orchard Road, she mentioned how she hadn't been there in ages. She doesn't need to because they've recently built a few malls much closer to where she lives and she no longer has any reason to travel across Singapore when she fancies popping to the shops.

The malls partly cater for tourists from neighbouring countries who come to Singapore to find brands they can't get near their home towns. Though I wonder how much longer this will go on since brands are increasingly expanding into surrounding territories.

Without shopping tourism, will these malls survive? Sure, young Singaporeans have more disposable income that in the past, but it's not a given that this will last (cynical, I know) and then what?

I'm intrigued. I would assume someone has done the economic forecasting to show that there will be a return on investment to building all these malls, but I can't shake the feeling that the whole scenario is a little fragile.

I wouldn't have guessed that I'd leave Singapore with an interest in their economy but I did, so I for one will be watching this space.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 15:34 Archived in Singapore Tagged shopping friends economy Comments (0)

Singapore: the last hurrah (for now!)

sunny

I hadn't done any homework on Singapore, I'd been too distracted elsewhere on my trip. I was also lucky because I have two friends living in Singapore and I was going to see them both.

My trip started off well when I checked into my hostel and I found out that I'd been upgraded to a 'premium' bed.

I had a pod bed. An actual pod bed. There was a wall that went to half the length of the bed and a dark blind that blocked out all the light. Inside the pod I had a telly, which had a ton of films and tv shows to choose from. It might sound a little claustrophobic but it was roomie. I had space to roll over in the night and not hit the walls and I could sit up easily with no danger of hitting my head on the ceiling. Even someone of a normal height would have been ok.

As you may imagine, the hostel lacked some of the atmosphere I'd experienced in other hostels, but this was the best bed I've ever seen and after the flight from Melbourne, just what I wanted.

The next morning, I visited the Sri Mariamman temple in China Town before meeting up with my new Argentinian friend Carolina. We visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple before hopping on a train to Dhoby Ghaut station. From there we walked all the way back to the Gardens by the Bay, through the old colonial district, visiting St. Andrew's Cathedral, Singapore's Parliament, the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Esplanade.

By this point my foot was hurting a fair amount, but I was excited for the Gardens by the Bay. We went straight for the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. I have to thank Carolina for encouraging the silly photos. I don't love having my photo taken, or asking others to take them, but I had a lot of fun!

By the time we got outside again it was already dark, and the gardens were beautifully illuminated. With some many colours and lights that brighten and dim, it was often hard to know where to look. It wasn't the same beauty as the natural wonders I saw in Chile for example, but striking none the less.

The next day, I finally got to see my friend who moved to Singapore a while ago. In classic Maltby style, she was only in the country for about 12 of the same hours as me and even though she had plenty of things to do, she did make time to see me. We went to her favourite cafe, and then back to her flat so she could make up green body paint for her trip to the Hong Kong rugby 7s. As you do. She was kind enough to let me stay in her flat, even though none of her flat mates would be there, so I had the place to myself.

That night and the next day I got to see my friend Jun. We know each other from AIESEC Leeds where we worked together and now she's the president of AIESEC Singapore! It was so cool to see her after nearly 3 years. We spent a couple of hours in the Art Science museum, which was excellent. I'm almost certain our favourite parts were aimed at children, I especially loved the colouring in and scanning your picture onto an interactive screen. Colouring is good for mindfulness right? We had a drink from the Marina Bay Sans hotel bar, with a slightly foggy but still impressive view.

I loved seeing my friends again. I hope to return to Singapore one day to visit them again, perhaps en route to somewhere else (Bali anyone...?!).

Posted by Rebecca Heller 09:02 Archived in Singapore Tagged art skylines friends Comments (0)

Melbourne Take One

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View Australian adventure! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

Attending the wedding was a big focus of my time in Melbourne, but post-wedding, I did make it into the city to explore. As per my habit, I went on the free walking tour of Melbourne, and would you believe it, I bumped into Chryso, a former colleague of mine. I had just been coming round to the idea that the world was in fact much larger than we give it credit for, since I'd seen such a small percentage on it during my trip. But bumping into a former colleague, that was proof that it is in fact a small world!

I visited the excellent joint Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei exhibition at the National Gallery. I'm not sure if it will be on anywhere else, but I'd strongly recommend it if it comes to a city near you!

Before I left I also managed to see my friends Rama and Kariza who I'd met in Peru and saw Carly again for a spot of dinner at Victoria markets. So really I had a wonderfully sociable stay in Melbourne.

I also finally booked my East Coast adventure. As opposed to most of my time in South America, I discovered that I really needed to pre-book my East Coast trip, since everything from hostels to buses to tours books out ahead of time. So I swiftly got myself a couple of quotes and went with the cheaper option through Peter Pan's.

There are so many options when it comes to tours it can be overwhelming. Thanks to conversations I'd had with Carly and other people I'd met along the way, I knew vaguely what was out there, what to avoid, and the questions to ask. This definitely saved me time, and I'd like to think, money.

So here's what I booked ahead of time:

  • Cairns: an Uncle Brian's Daintree rainforest tour and a Great Barrier Reef trip for my first ever snorkel and an introductory scuba dive.
  • Airlie Beach: Whitsundays tour with Wings
  • Rainbow Beach: Dingo's Fraser Island tour
  • Byron Bay: surf class
  • All bus tickets with Premier - far cheaper than Greyhound and fit my schedule
  • All hostels

Whilst my itinerary had very little wiggle room, it was quite nice knowing it was all booked and paid for, so all I had to worry about was food and treats for the next three weeks.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 02:11 Archived in Australia Tagged friends family tour Comments (0)

Taking the scenic route from Adelaide to Melbourne

The Great Ocean Road

all seasons in one day
View Australian adventure! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

My Aussie adventure continued with a trip to Adelaide where I met my friend Carly at the airport. We hadn't seen each other since August so it was really great to catch up.

We spent our only full day there in the Barrossa Valley on a wine tour. Yes, another wine tour for me!

We went to just three wineries in the region. Our tour didn't include the Jacob's Creek winery, but we'd been told it's very touristy and not too authentic in there for the tour.

It's a pretty interesting combination, plenty of wine and no food but hey ho, that's the fun! I actually thought we didn't get too much information at the places we visited. We tried plenty of wines but didn't learn anything of the production processes, unlike the wineries I visited in Mendoza.

The following day, we found the car rental office to pick up the car for our road trip! I had said from the start that I wouldn't drive, since it's been a while since I've driven and I didn't want the first time I drive in years to be in a rental car with a passenger next to me, in Australia. Carly loves driving so it worked out well on that front, even still, it's a lot of driving for one person so I'm extremely grateful that she was happy to do it!

Driving along the Great Ocean Road is one of those must do activities in Australia, but most people go on a round trip tour from Melbourne and don't make it to Adelaide. That's partly because it's a long drive from Adelaide to the first big place of interest, the Grampians national park. There is a pink lake close by, which was thankfully pink when we visited, I think the idea of the pink lake was keeping Carly motivated on the long first stint!

But get there we did and this is where we spent our first night, surrounded by mountains and trees, a stark contrast to my nights spent in the Outback! We even spotted some koalas just chilling in the trees.

We made a few stops the next day on the way to Apollo Bay, stopping at some lakes and waterfalls. It's amazing how peaceful you can feel outdoors amongst nature. It's something we easily forget living in a big city, just rushing through life.

We stopped at Warrnambool for some lunch before finding our way onto the actual Great Ocean Road! This day we saw all the good Great Ocean Road sites: The Grotto, London Bridge, The Arch, Loch Ard Gorge and the Twelve Apostles.

On the second night we stayed in Apollo Bay, a small surfing town with some interesting characters in our hostel. I'm referring specifically to the inebriated French man who told us that he was being deported, despite having a one year old son staying in Australia with his mother. Apart from everyone else seemed alright!

On day three we had wanted to visit the beach but sadly it was a tad drizzly in the morning so we made our way to Lorne, a small beach town perfectly placed for an afternoon sunbathe on the way to Torquay. Post sunbathe we stopped at the world's most disappointing waterfall. Ok that's probably a bit harsh, it's just that there was absolutely no water there. I do feel as though the trail should have come with some sort of disclaimer, you know: 'warning: there may be no water'.

It was then time to head back to Melbourne, this particular road trip was over.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 09:40 Archived in Australia Tagged mountains beaches friends roadtrip Comments (0)

Plenty of love for Santiago

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View Getting to know Chile on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

Before coming travelling, I had always felt like I preferred big cities to smaller places, but since I've been away I've grown to love the smaller, more chilled out towns and amazing natural beauties. I spent a lot of time in Chile in just those kinds of places.

Throw into the mix the conflicting opinions of Santiago that I had heard from people along the way, and it's not surprising that I was a little unsure how I would feel about a big capital city like Santiago.

I loved Santiago. It's a big modern city, with green spaces, it's colourful, there's culture and plenty of opportunities to have a great time, whatever having a great time means to you.

That evening I made some friends in the hostel and we went out for a few drinks on Pio Nono, a street full of cafes (by day) and bars (by night).

On my first morning, I headed straight for Cerro San Cristóbel. It's a big hill, with not a lot of shade, that you can walk up, take the fenicular, or apparently cycle up very quickly. I walked which was very hot indeed. At the top is a statue of la virgen and space for quiet reflection for those who wish.

That afternoon I did the free Tours4Tips walking tour. It was the first time on this trip that my guide was not native to the country we were in, ours was French Canadian, so in fact speaking her third language. She was an excellent guide, and I only mention her nationality because I think it perhaps gave her a more objective perspective on some elements of Santiago's recent dark history, namely the Pinochet years.

That evening I went to a pool party. I was invited by the people I met in Pucón who live there and it seemed like as good idea as any! It was really fun and a great way to meet people living in the city. Viewing the sunset over the mountains from the roof top pool was pretty spectacular and a surreal moment.

The next day I dedicated to cultural Santiago. My first stop was the Museum of memory and human rights. I first heard about this museum in my final year of university whilst enrolled on a module called the Human Rights Abuses in 20th Century Latin America.

I'll leave a more detailed account of this museum for another post and only say that it's an excellent and truly important museum. It's a must if you are ever passing through Santiago.

That afternoon I also made it to Pablo Neruda's house, which has been turned into a museum about his life and loves.

Finally, I popped into the National Gallery, for all of 20 minutes that I had left before closing time. It was a shame not to dedicate more time, but you know, there should always be something to come back for.

It seems as though many people skip Santiago, pass through the airport without spending any time there, but I would strongly recommend spending at least a few days there. I did, and now I want to go back!

Posted by Rebecca Heller 19:11 Archived in Chile Tagged parties walking culture city friends memory dictatorship Comments (0)

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