And the Complete Norway trip starts!
This is the most expensive trip that I have ever paid for in my entire life (up till now). I suppose Norway as a destination is a very expensive place to visit. I will be sharing more about the exorbitant Norway prices later on, but let me insert my itinerary first.
Complete Norway Itinerary (20 Aug to 4 Sep 2019)
A short walk to the Opera House
20 Aug - We arrived at about 2pm with a jetlag, but that didn't stop me from going around the Thon Hotel area to do a little bit of sight-seeing. I was happy that the hotel gave us the top floor with the best view - overseeing the waterfront as well as the city proper. The Opera House itself was filled with hordes of locals and tourists alike, basking in the warm summer sun. The winds were gusty and cold though, and if you look closely at the 360 photo, you will see a lady tourist trying to catch her hat which was being blown away from a sudden strong gust of wind!
Wellaholic’s vision is to help their customers look their best, via the use of technology-based treatments and scientifically-researched supplements. Wellaholic started in 2016, at their first outlet at Lavender. In 2017, they opened our second outlet at Clarke Quay and third outlet at Orchard. They opened our fourth outlet and HQ at Tai Seng in 2019. Their fifth outlet, Tanjong Pagar outlet was opened in July 2019.
This is the stairway leading up to the Wellaholic (TP) outlet. Look at all the lovely paintings and prints!
Tras Street is a street located in Tanjong Pagar in the Outram Planning Area and Downtown Core in Singapore. The road connects Enggor Street and Gopeng Street to Cook Street, and is intersected by Wallich Street.
Tras Street today is lined with many shophouses, many of which are two- and three-storey buildings. These shophouses, some of which are conserved pre-war buildings, are home to shops, eating places, pubs, boutiques and offices. The street is in fact a well-known night spot because of its string of bars.
Regent Hotel Singapore was opened 1988 as The Pavilion Inter-Continental Singapore, converted to Regent and managed by Four Seasons Hotel 1992. Following Regent's takeover by Carlson hotels in 1998, the hotel was rebranded as 'Regent Singapore, A Four Seasons Hotel' to distinguish it from other Regent hotels that were not managed by Four Seasons. Pontiac Land Group, of which the owner of the hotel, and Four Seasons, mutually agreed not to extend the management contract when it expired on 12/31/18. It was originally planned to have the hotel managed by Capella Hotel Group, an affiliate of Pontiac Land Group, yet a management contract with InterContinental Hotels Group was signed whereby the hotel stays within Regent's portfolio.
In March 2018, the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) announced that it has agreed to buy a 51% majority stake in Regent Hotels for $39 million and hopes to expand the brand's footprints to 40 hotels from the current six hotels.
Under the URA Draft Master Plan 2019, future public housing will be planned around the six former Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) blocks and the iconic courtyard space at Dakota Crescent.
I was driving past the Dakota Crescent area just the other day. The empty playground, with the boarded-up flats stirred something in me, and I decided to make a U-turn and take a look at this small estate before it makes way for another new development, as with the fates of several other aged developments in Singapore.
Dakota Crescent area comprises rental flats previously developed in 1958 by the Singapore Improvement Trust, predecessor to HDB. In 2014, it was announced that Dakota Crescent was to be redeveloped. Residents were able to relocate to a nearby estate of new HDB flats as the flats in Dakota Crescent had aged over time. Like Tiong Bahru, her more famous Singapore Improvement Trust cousin, Dakota Crescent is one of few estates built by HDB’s colonial predecessor to remain. Both estates are relatively low-rise and are located short distances from the city centre but that are where similarities end.
To meet the needs of a growing population, there is always pressure on the government to tear down older developments to create newer and better townships. Notwithstanding, old buildings and architecture embody with them fond memories we carry with us from young. I do remember bussing past Dakota Crescent after my weekend NCC (Land) trainings at the NCC Haig Road Camp (which has also given way to new developments). With the passage of time, I do have difficulties recollecting the ex-buildings that I used to interact with. There used to be a MPH at Stamford Road that I visited after going to the National Library. There was also the Van Kleef Aquarium I went as a young boy.....
For Dakota Crescent, I believe what stirred in me was an empathy, and perhaps a brooding realisation that the passage of time coupled with the quest of modernity will ravage everything; buildings, people and all. And if we can, let's pause and see Dakota Crescent one more time, before it disappears and eventually fade from our memories too.
To be honest, it has been almost ten years since I last went to Krabi. Hence, I did not find any landmarks or places to be familiar. First stop after checking into my accommodation (Holiday Inn Express for their practicality and pricing), I took a look at the shoreline. It was low tide unfortunately.
It seemed to be the low season. Perhaps Songkran has just passed so all the visitors must have left. Andy's Tailor, which was close to the hotel, was also empty. I did not need to do any further tailoring, but I helped to negotiate for a better deal anyway.
We originally wanted to eat at one of the beach-front seafood restaurants, but after checking the menu, we decided to save ourselves some money and ended up eating at the night market nearby. A salt-grilled fish like this was nice and moist inside, and was priced well at 200 baht only.
Decided to sign up for a reasonably-priced "Four Island Tour". The following day, we got picked up to the pier area and then embarked on the long-tailed boat.
The islands were pretty nice, with clear waters and obviously, hordes of visitors. Who said this was low season?! I waded through the high tide to the Princess Cave, but of course stopped to pose for some photos, in this blazing heat.
Guess what people were worshipping for at the Princess Cave?
Your guess is as good as mine haha!
Also had the chance to do a little bit of snorkelling near the Chicken Island. It was unfortunate that most of the coral around the area seemed to be dying. A sad result of either global warming, or over-tourism, or likely both combined. (I know I am not helping either).
Also managed to catch a really nice sunset. All in all, I found Krabi to be rather laid back for the right reason. It seems less commercialised, and despite the really hot blazing heat during the day, I had a good time!
My November trip to Egypt was a good one. In a strange way, it dovetails my trip to Peru, Machu Picchu more than a decade ago. During my university days, I read this book called 'Fingerprints of the Gods'. Described as an pesudoarchelogy book, the author Grahan Hancock gave an interesting take on the possibility of an ancient civilisation or race that helped created all these phenomenal ancient monuments.
Due to my busy schedules, I did not have time to prepare for the trip. I was ready to take in all the sights and sounds, good or bad, as part of the time. Let me summarise all the good and all the bad:
After 12 days, however, I was fatigued and tired out. While doing a land tour (with Intrepid) was convenient and safe, as the tour operators planned everything, towards the end of the trip, I could see that everyone was tired out and wanted more alone-time haha.
When the tour ended, and with two days left, we decided to "take a gamble" and booked an airplane ride to Sharm El Sheikh. Sharm el-Sheikh is an Egyptian resort town between the desert of the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea. It's known for its sheltered sandy beaches, clear waters and coral reefs. Naama Bay, with a palm tree-lined promenade, is filled with bars and restaurants. Ras Muhammad National Park is a major diving destination, with marine life around the Shark and Yolanda reefs and the Thistlegorm wreck. The Red Sea is supposed to be the best waters for diving, so we did some snorkelling and then returned back to Cairo.
Made my second quick trip and visit to Nara, Japan to feed the deers. They were as friendly and hungry as always!
Nara Park (奈良公園, Nara Kōen) is a large park in central Nara. Established in 1880, it is the location of many of Nara's main attractions including Todaiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji and the Nara National Museum. The park is home to hundreds of freely roaming deer. Considered in Shinto to be messengers of the gods, Nara's nearly 1200 deer have become a symbol of the city and have even been designated as a natural treasure. Nara's deer are surprisingly tame, although they can be aggressive if they think you will feed them. Deer crackers are for sale around the park, and some deer have learned to bow to visitors to ask to be fed.
As I arrived at Nara late, it was merely a quick visit to the deers, and then I was back on my way to Osaka.
Video walkthrough of Himeji Castle from the main gate all the way through the castle grounds and then to the highest level. Was accompanied by hordes of school kids in blue as you could tell.
Himeji Castle (姫路城 Himeji-jō) is a hilltop Japanese castle complex situated in the city of Himeji which is located in the Hyōgo Prefecture of Japan. The castle is regarded as the finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture, comprising a network of 83 rooms with advanced defensive systems from the feudal period. The castle is frequently known as Hakuro-jō or Shirasagi-jō ("White Egret Castle" or "White Heron Castle") because of its brilliant white exterior and supposed resemblance to a bird taking flight.
Himeji Castle is the largest and most visited castle in Japan, and it was registered in 1993 as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country. The area within the middle moat of the castle complex is a designated Special Historic Site and five structures of the castle are also designated National Treasures.
My first time visiting Himeji Castle was before the year 2000, so this second visit was truly way overdue!