Category Archives: Asia

So, it’s been a little while…

So, it’s been a little while since my last post.

As you probably know from your own life, things can get hectic from time to time and I let things slip. Sorry! That being said, life is good.

Since my last post I’ve done a reasonable amount of travel – internationally to Taipei, London, Brussels and Kuala Lumpur and I think that is it… But mostly I’ve just been working, saving my pennies and thinking about when we might next get away. At this stage we’re planning on September – somewhere in the Pacific which will no doubt be amazing.

So, a quick round up of my travels of late:

I was anything but the healthy globetrotter in Taipei. Great city, though Karthi and I ended up extremely unwell with the worst food poisoning I’ve ever experienced in my life. Hello four days in our hotel room. Once I get over that experience I promise to share some more positive stories about the city, including seeing a panda for the first time. Words can’t describe how excited I got, even if it was in a zoo.

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London was amazing. Freezing, but amazing. I was lucky enough to visit two of my close friends and just spend time hanging out. I worked a bit, helped them with some of their wedding plans and generally just relaxed. Oh and I shopped. Tourist highlight? Seeing Big Ben covered in snow. Very different from my last few trips to London which have all been in Summer. I also really enjoyed living the London lifestyle for a week – seeing how my friends live over there was definitely a tick for the expat lifestyle.

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Brussels is still a blur. I visited for a conference but packed in as much as I could. It was great to experience that city for a second time (though my first time in winter). There was more snow here too, which always makes me happy and I really enjoyed getting to know some of my colleagues better as well 🙂 Yes, I promise I indulged in Belgian chocolate – in moderation, of course. I’ll have to share some photos from that trip in another post.

Finally, Kuala Lumpur – a quick trip to visit Karthi’s mum which was really lovely. I felt so welcomed and I really enjoyed visiting a warm destination for the first time in a while. A lot has changed since my last visit to KL in 2006, and it was very different seeing it from a local’s perspective! The food was just phenomenal as well, which was mainly thanks to the amazing hospitality of Karthi’s mum and aunts.

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I will try and draft a fuller update on each of these trips in the coming weeks! In the meantime, I’ll be planning my next trip! Any recommendations for pacific destinations?

Cheers,
The Healthy Globetrotter

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Happy New Year!

Just a quick post to wish you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR from Taipei, Taiwan!

With thanks to a very generous bride and groom, we spent New Year’s Eve here:
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Now, you may sensibly ask, a roof top bar in 8 degree weather? But it was perfect and allowed us to have this spectacular view of the fireworks!

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It was a wonderful night and I hope that, wherever you are, you had a special night as well.

Here’s to a fantastic 2013. What do you have planned? My next stop is Sydney, followed shortly by London! I can’t wait!

The Healthy Globetrotter

Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

Listening to my Dad has almost always paid off (ok, so I’m sure it’s probably always paid off!)

His advice on Turkey was no exception.

My whole family has spent time in Turkey and while they’d raved about it for years, I decided to go because it was a convenient destination. Not exactly on a whim, but a well-located stop over on a planned trip to sail the Ionian Islands in Greece.

When I told my parents of my plans, they were excited. Not just a “great, you’re going on holiday” kind of excited (which they always are when it comes to travel), but a rare excited that I don’t think I’ve ever seen them match for another destination. At this point in the conversation, my Dad took the phone from my Mum and insisted “You must see the Blue Mosque. And Aya Sofia. Magnificent buildings. You will love them. Go”.

He was right, I loved them both.

After my horrendous journey to Istanbul, my first stop was the Blue Mosque. This alone made up for everything that had occurred in the preceding five or six hours.

Technically named the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sultanahmet Capii), those who haven’t visited often wonder why it’s called the Blue Mosque, it’s not exactly blue from the outside. However, once you’re inside you quickly realise why: It is simply the number of blue tiles on the interior. That said, I must admit I do think the white/grey exterior seems to take on a blue tinge in certain lights, though perhaps that’s just me!

Blue Mosque

Outside the Blue Mosque

As the story goes, Sultan Ahmed (I) commissioned a mosque to be built, reportedly designed to intentionally outshine the Aya Sofia (deserving of a post in its own right so I won’t go into detail here). He was only 19 at the time and it took seven years to build, though sadly he died just one year after completion at 27.

Whether or not the story about his intent is entirely true, it is fair to say the mosque has a big impact on the city of Istanbul. It was the first thing I saw on my way into Istanbul, and come to think of it, probably the last.

Here’s a little evidence of why it’s so spectacular!

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

I went snap happy in here. Couldn’t put my camera down kind of crazy. That’s not altogether uncommon for me, but it was pretty phenomenal.

Blue Mosque Blue Tiles

Blue Mosque with blue tiles

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

A tourist mecca, this place is popular. Amazingly enough however, it’s still actively used as a mosque. Dress respectfully or you’ll be forced to pay to borrow scarves or other clothes (though given the heat when we visited, this was well worth it for us).

While it was certainly busy when we were there, it wasn’t as busy as we were expecting. This was because a group prayer session was scheduled shortly after our visit and we were asked to leave before it commenced (also be mindful of the ezan – the call to prayer – which occurs, as I understand it, at slightly different times each day). While this meant we had less time inside, it did allow us to have a few moments shared with far fewer people than normal, definitely something to consider if you’re planning a visit.

Besides, if we hadn’t been kicked out (read: asked politely to vacate), we may never have left. It’s pretty spectacular. A must visit on any trip to Istanbul.

Have you visited the Blue Mosque? Do you think it outshines Aya Sofia as Sultan Ahmed wished? I’ll let you know my thoughts when I share my photos of Aya Sofia

Until then,
The Healthy Globetrotter.

Running the World: Singapore Style

Staying fit and healthy while travelling isn’t always the easiest task. You’re away from regular routine, around delicious food and if you’re anything like me, switch to a holiday mindset as well. It’s pretty much a recipe for some weight gain (and an amazing time) unless you’re determined to avoid it. While I’m all for the amazing time, I am preferable to avoiding any excess “baggage” on the way home!

As I’ve previously posted, I love to run in new destinations to get the lay of the land and stay healthy while travelling. As an added bonus, with the help of a pocket camera or phone (I normally use an iPhone) you can capture the sights too. Often you’ll be able to see things you’d never have had the opportunity to if not for your run. Just another reason to pack your exercise gear and get moving.

So, without further ado, here’s the latest edition of Running the World. This time, it’s Singapore Style:

Merlion – Iconic Singapore. Taken while running across the esplanade

Singapore Skyline – the big white building is the Fullerton Hotel where I stayed

A word to those keen to join my Running the World fun – Singapore can get pretty warm, I’d definitely recommend taking some water with you for the journey.

Further, make sure you know your destination and assess whether it is safe to head out for a run at the time you plan (and if you’re new to exercise, take advice from a doctor before starting!)

Marina Bay Sands

I followed a path provided to me by my hotel, ending around Marina Bay Sands. As an aside, the shopping here is pretty great. It also has a “canal” at the bottom of the centre and little Venice-style gondolas you can ride on if you feeling up to an ultra-touristy experience.

Coming across the other side of the esplanade, this was taken just near my hotel towards the end of my run

Now you might be thinking what sort of run can I be having if I keep stopping to take photos?! Excellent point. However, a good way to still get a great workout in is by doing interval training. Running as hard as you can for a burst and then slowing down to a jog, taking a picture and then repeating the process!

Having a little fun outside the Asian Civilisations Museum, pretty much where I finished up my run!

Here I am at the end of my run, having a little fun at the Asian Civilisations Museum.

My advice? Exercise doesn’t have to be a boring part of your travels. It can totally add to your experience and is one of my favourite things to do upon arriving at a new destination.

So, where are your travels taking you next? Are you game to join Running the World?

The Healthy Globetrotter

Cycling the world: Vietnam

I recently posted Running the World, explaining why I always pack my exercise gear, even on short trips. Here’s another reason: cycling.

Now, before I go any further, I am not a cyclist. I’m shamefully scared of cycling on main roads (why do buses and bikes have to share the same lanes here?!) and don’t own a bike in Sydney. That said, there are some great riding trips you can do around the world. I’m all for them when they occur in the countryside!

I travelled to Vietnam with Intrepid Travel. While I love travelling independently, their small group adventures can be very enjoyable, especially if you want to see a reasonable area in a short space of time. As part of my trip, there were several optional activities including bike rides. Without these rides, I wouldn’t have been able to see half as much of the country side in the same amount of time. Definitely worth the work out!

Incense!

Now, to be honest, taking photos while bike riding isn’t exactly easy. Further, as I was riding as part of a group, I didn’t have the freedom to stop the way I could choose to if I was running by myself. However, it does allow for some accidentally artistic captures!

Totally accidental but I love this shot! 🙂

I loved the scenery riding around different areas of Vietnam. It was truly beautiful. I especially loved taking photos of the workers in the rice paddy fields!

I also loved riding alongside a number of the locals. The people in Vietnam were beautiful, particularly so out in the country – away from the hustle and bustle of the city markets where I did find there was some pressure to buy, buy, buy! That said, I can’t exactly complain – I loved the shopping, particularly getting clothes tailored in Hoi An.

Often we were lucky enough to be out riding when many children were on there way to school. The kids were lovely, sometime oblivious to us, sometimes engaging. Either way, I found it fascinating.

School kids

I loved Vietnam and can’t wait to get back there. There is so much more to see and I’m excited to share more about my adventures there soon!

In the meantime, have you cycled anywhere around the world?

The Healthy Globetrotter

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Singapore Zoo

So as you’ve probably realised by now, I’m in Singapore. For me, the best thing about visiting a city more than once is discovering new things. The second has got to be the memories!

My current visit has reminded me just how much I loved visiting the zoo last time I was here!

For those that know me personally, this is probably not much of a surprise. I love the zoo and animals. How can you not? This is the very definition of adorable:

Baby!

Assuming you avoid all the ice-creams and chips that are usually on offer, the zoo (any zoo! In this case, Singapore Zoo) can be a really healthy day out. If you have the desire to see the animals (and the zoo is big enough) you can definitely get in a solid day of walking, all while enjoying the animals! With 2800 animals over 26 hectares, Singapore Zoo definitely meets my criteria. Win.

One of my favourites at Singapore Zoo were the rhinos. This one was beautiful. I loved that he had a little birdy playing on his back… that was until I realised that the little birdy was in fact picking at the poor Rhino’s skin.

Rhino! You might notice the “third love photography” – don’t worry, I’m not stealing photos, these photos have just come straight from my tumblr!

I know, I know, there are better ways to see animals. In the wild. On safari. But as I recently learnt during a Roar and Snore sleepover at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo (post coming soon!) the conditions animals are kept in at zoos worldwide have improved rapidly over the years. Further, many zoos (including Singapore) participate in critical conservation and breeding programs to help save endangered animals from extinction. In my view, that’s a worthy cause. Let’s face it, until such time as I make it to Africa (fingers crossed for 2013!) the zoo will have to do.

African Crowned Crane

Out of all the zoos I’ve visited in the world (and trust me, there has been more than a few) Singapore Zoo sits high on my list as one of the better zoos out there. In my view, it is pretty special.

Clearly designed to allow you to get up and close with the animals, that’s exactly what I did:

Zebra!

Hello little fella!

Pensive

Next time you’re in Singapore, I would definitely recommend the zoo! Though don’t forget to skip the unhealthy snacks that can come with a day out and focus on enjoying the fresh air and walks instead!

Do you have a favourite zoo?

The Healthy Globetrotter