Our Temporary Home at Castle Inn, Cappadocia

Our travels are a constant search for a place to call home—not a permanent one (we have no desire to settle down)—but a temporary base where we can feel comfortable and settled, even just for a few days. Usually apartments are best for feeling at home, but on our recent trip to Cappadocia, an otherworldly land of volcanic rock formations in central Turkey, we found a hotel that did just as well.

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A Surprise Family Reunion in the Turkish Seaside Town Kaş

We share so much about our lives on our blog and social media that it’s hard to keep secrets. But that’s what we had to do when my Dad arranged a family reunion to celebrate my mum’s 60th birthday. For nearly a year we’d been planning it, trying to find the perfect villa to accommodate us along with my uncles, aunts, cousins, and nan, weighing up different locations around the world before finally settling on the small seaside town of Kaş on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

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From Europe to Asia: Eating Our Way Around Istanbul

We have a confession: the only tours we really enjoy on our travels are food tours. History just doesn’t interest us that much, but give us a day eating our way around a new city and we’re in heaven. This was especially true in Istanbul where food was a major focus of our trip. The churches, palaces and mosques didn’t excite us as much as the alluring food shops with piles of spices and nuts, the vibrant markets, and the endless plates of vegetarian-friendly meze.

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Learning to Cook Turkish Food in Istanbul

When I started researching Turkish food I got excited. There were so many local vegetarian dishes to try—not something that happens in many places we travel. As I drooled in anticipation I knew food was going to be a big part of our Turkish experience and I wanted to learn more about the cuisine, so I signed us up for one of our favourite travel activities—a cooking class with Delicious Istanbul.

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9 Things We Love About Singapore

When we arrived in Singapore the immigration counters were giving out free sweets. We’ve never seen that before and it was such a contrast to the usual surly welcome that we knew we were somewhere different. Singapore is unlike anywhere else in Southeast Asia—clean, efficient, and wealthy. Some say it’s boring; we say it’s easy, and all travellers need easy from time to time.

During our week in Singapore we found much to love about the city that’s also an island and a country.

1) It’s Easy

After travelling around more hectic parts of the region it’s a relief to discover that Singapore is a very easy place to explore. Although the population is a mix of Malay, Chinese, and Indian, the lingua franca is English so you’ll always be understood. Crime is low so you can carry your camera around at night without worrying. You can even drink the tap water.

The public transport system (MRT is most useful for visitors) is inexpensive, reliable and clean—enforced by a $500 fine for eating or drinking onboard. Arrows on the platform indicate where to stand aside while others disembark, and cute signs remind you that it’s nice to offer your seat to someone who needs it.

Best of all, everything just works.

2) Green Spaces

ION Orchard, Singapore

ION Orchard—even the (many) shopping malls are green

We were surprised by how green Singapore is, and it really lives up to its nickname of the Garden City. There are plenty of parks, streets are lined with huge trees, and downtown office buildings have gardens on their balconies and roofs. You can even go hiking in the rainforest in the state’s nature reserves.

Finding a running route in a big city can be a challenge but in Singapore I could easily avoid traffic and pedestrians by running along the Green Corridor—an old railway track that has been converted to a hidden park providing a quiet respite from the city.

Although Singapore is a densely developed city there isn’t a lot of traffic—it’s practically empty compared to congested Bangkok. Locals have to pay a high price to register a car and the government has provided such an excellent public transport system that it’s not really necessary.

Singapore is also much more environmentally friendly than the rest of Southeast Asia with recycling bins everywhere.

3) Gardens by the Bay

Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay

Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay is Singapore’s newest green space spanning 101 hectares in the Marina Bay area. The free outdoor gardens are a lovely place to wander (especially the Supertrees—see below) and it’s also worth paying to visit the two climate controlled conservatories. The Flower Dome is a world of perpetual spring with European flower beds and African baobabs.

South African tree grapes in the Flower Dome, Singapore

South African tree grapes in the Flower Dome

Baby baobabs (?) in the Flower Dome

Baby baobabs (?) in the Flower Dome

The Cloud Forest dome is even more spectacular with a waterfall pouring down from the mountain covered in lush vegetation.

Cloud Forest, Gardens by the Bay

Cloud Forest

As you climb up the plant life changes from what you’d find in the tropical highlands up to the misty cloud forest 2,000 metres above sea level. From the top there are also expansive views of the skyline including the Supertrees and Marina Bay Sands.

The misty Cloud Forest, Gardens by the Bay

The misty Cloud Forest

4) Supertrees

Supertrees reflection and full moon, Singapore

We got lucky and saw the Supertrees reflected in this pond with a full moon peeking behind

The Supertrees are part of Gardens by the Bay but we liked them so much that they deserve a section to themselves. These unique trees are 25 to 50 metres high, with steel trunks covered in orchids, ferns and climbing tropical flowers, and large canopies stretching out like a network of veins. Many of the trees generate solar power and collect rainwater.

Marina Bay Sands behind the Supertrees

Marina Bay Sands behind the Supertrees

The Supertrees are best seen at night when they glow in bright changing colours. It’s worth coming for the free Garden Rhapsody show at 7.45pm and 8.45pm every night, a magical and otherworldly music and light experience.

Supertrees at night, SingaporeAt the Supertrees we felt like we were in a city of the future.

5) Night Skyline

We’re not night owls but Singapore enticed us out many nights with its stunning futuristic skyline that’s best seen when the sun goes down.

Wonder Full is a free light and water show every night at 8pm and 9.30pm outside the Marina Bay Sands hotel. It’s a cheesy montage of babies and flowers projected onto water, but it’s fun, and worth coming to see the city light up. You can get a different perspective by watching across the bay by the Merlion statue where you won’t see the water show but can see the lights and lasers streaming out of the boat-shaped hotel.

The Wonder Full show from the Merlion statue

The Wonder Full show from the Merlion statue

We splurged on a cocktail at the KU DÉ TA bar at the top of Marina Bay Sands along with our friend Victoria of Bridges and Balloons. At $23 each they were pricey but delicious and definitely worth it for views of the sunset and the skyscrapers lighting up across the city.

Cocktails with Victoria at Ku DeETA bar

Cocktails with Victoria at KU DÉ TA bar

View from KU DÉ TA bar, Marina May Sands

The amazing view from KU DÉ TA

We thought it was better value than paying the same just for the entrance fee to the SkyPark which was just below the bar and has a similar view (although we couldn’t see the famous infinity pool).

6) Variety of Architecture

The Cloud Forest conservatory, Gardens by the Bay

The Cloud Forest conservatory

Towering skyscrapers in the financial district; colonial hotels; wooden shuttered shophouses and mosques in Kampong Glam; colourful buildings and Hindu temples in Little India; Art Deco towers; the ultra-modern structures of Marina Bay. Singapore has a diverse range of architecture and each neighbourhood has a completely different feel from the futuristic Marina Bay to the chaos and vibrance of Little India.

 

Colourful building in Little India, Singapore

Colourful building in Little India

Haji Lane—a cool street of independent shops and street art in Kampong Glam

Haji Lane—a cool street of independent shops and street art in Kampong Glam

7) Food

Masala dosa, Singapore

Masala dosa, an Indian rice-lentil pancake stuffed with spicy potato. Always cheap and a great veggie option.

Singaporeans love to eat and the cuisine on offer is a multicultural mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Western food. Cheap eats are found at hawker centres and food courts all over the city, while high quality restaurants are much more expensive.

There are hundreds of vegetarian restaurants in the city, mostly a mix of cheap Indian (yum) and fake-meat heavy Chinese (not so yum), but we also enjoyed gourmet Mediterranean vegetarian at Original Sin, authentic Italian-style pizzas, and fast-food veggie burgers.

Our most memorable meal was a home-cooked Gujurati feast with a local family that we booked using the With Locals website which connects travellers with locals offering unique experiences.

8) Universal Studios Singapore

The Revenge of the Mummy ride, Singapore

The Revenge of the Mummy ride

Sentosa Island is Singapore’s playground and we had a day of fun at Universal Studios. The park isn’t huge but we still managed to fill up a whole day there. All of the different areas are well themed and appropriate film music provides a constant soundtrack to the day. There are a wide variety of rides and attractions, including The Revenge of the Mummy which was a fast roller coaster in the dark with some interesting twists, and Transformers, which was an intense 3D experience that Simon really enjoyed but which triggered my motion sickness. Jurassic Park is a fun water ride and Waterworld was an amazing live show with a lot of impressive stunts.

9) Changi Airport

Singapore has the best airport in the world. We flew out of Terminal 3 which has a butterfly garden, koi pond, free 24/7 movie theatre, free WiFi, comfy seating with convenient power sockets (including USB), and a real convenience store selling snacks at reasonable prices—we loved being able to buy large bottles of water to take on the plane. If only every airport in the world was like this, air travel would be a lot more pleasant.

We didn’t like everything about Singapore, of course. Except for certain things like transport and hawker centre food, it’s expensive—we averaged £65 (US$109) a day for us both without having to pay for accommodation as we stayed with Simon’s brother. The weather can be a challenge for exploring—it’s constantly hot and humid, and was cloudy or rainy almost every day we were there.

Despite this we loved getting to know Singapore, which isn’t quite like any other city. The most difficult thing was moving on—it was only when we left that we realised just how well the city is run, and we’d grown used to everything working as it should. Everywhere else feels broken in comparison.