Monday, July 3, 2017

Copenhagen (June 30 - July 5)

After a 4 hour layover in Bangkok, our flight from Singapore arrived in Copenhagen at about 7:30 PM. Pat and I took a cab to our AirBnB. The driver was not one of the better ones we've had: seemed to have trouble using his GPS and had to reload it several times - each time I had to look up the address again. He had to pull over three times to reset his GPS, promising that he was not charging for these delays.

When we finally got to our AirBnB we met the owner who showed us her apartment and explained about the creaky floors and the neighbor below. We would be here until July 5. Our host is a painter so we got to enjoy some of her work. Pat especially liked the piece hung over the bed.

View from our AirBnB

Pat liked the paintings by the owner

Observations on Copenhagen:
  • Definitely cooler than Singapore
  • Very flat
  • Lots of bicycles being ridden all the time, even in the rain
  • Lots of rain
  • Bike lanes on all the main roads
  • Bike lanes were referred to, by one of our walking-tour guides, as "kill zones" - cars will often stop for you, but not bikes!
  • The neighborhood we stayed in was rather generic, almost industrial looking, but safe with convenient stores and a bus stop
  • Bus transportation was good - fares base on the ride, not the distance; therefore, it cost the same to ride one stop or 10 stops.
  • Parks had lots of things for children 
We did a very good walking tour of Copenhagen. They are provided free, meeting outside the city hall, and consequently are busy. When we assembled, the crowd had to be broken into 4-5 groups of 15-20. Our guide was from Peru, but had studied and lived in Copenhagen for many years, He was funny and kept the boys well entertained (and us too). The tour lasted a little over 3 hours, lots of walking, and sporadic rain.

Copenhagen's City Hall

There were so many of us the tour guides
had to split us into smaller groups

One of the modified bikes on the plaza,
looking like a motorcycle

Another bike modification

One of the streets included on our tour

Our Peruvian tour guide

Drew helping the tour guide describe the major islands of Denmark

Kylie and Bryan arrived from Charlotte a couple of days after us - our "mob" was now grew to 8 strong.

One of the days included a  Netto-Bådene cruise on the canals and waterways of Copenhagen. Halfway through the 1 hour tour, the rain came down heavily. As I was the only one with an umbrella, we all crowded under it. I sure wish we had a photo of that, but everyone kept their phones and cameras dry, not necessarily our heads.

Jenny and kids decide to sit way in
the back (we moved back, too)

Ai Weiwei installation

We are turning around to head out of this
part of the canal

Heading out

New opera house

Old submarine hanger and Drew

One of our most memorable meals was at  Restaurant Under Uret for  smørrebrød. We each ordered a different meal and then passed the plates so everyone could have a sample, if they were so inclined.

Our order marked with "A"

The menu

Marinated herring

Warm, home-made liver pate with beetroot and bacon

Old, strong cheese with lard, jelly and rum

Potato with chives, red onion, roasted onions and bacon

Fried herring in marinade

Curry-spiced herring of the house

Roast beef

Literally, under the clock

The day before we left Copenhagen was spent at  Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world, opened in 1843. Jenny's coworkers had given her tickets for all of us - what a nice gift. I rode Dæmonen (The Demon), a roller coaster with 3 separated instances where you are up-side-down, with Drew, Kylie and Bryan.

On our way toward Tivoli Gardens

Heading into Tivoli

One of the many upside-down rides Kylie and Bryan rode

Kylie and Drew in a much tamer ride

Drake driving Ms.Jenny

Next to last row: Drew, Me, Kylie, Bryan

The following morning, July 5, we all went to the station to catch trains to Hamburg, Germany. The interesting thing about this train was when it reached the coast, it was loaded onto a ferry for the trip to Germany. While on the ferry, we all had to leave the train and go into the dining facilities and souvenir store area. Once docked in Germany, we re-boarded the train.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Unexpected India (1-4 June 2017)

When Ray and I flew back to Singapore to visit Jenny et al we didn't plan on any additional trips until we leave at the end of June for our next adventure. But an opportunity arose shortly before we left the US. Jenny had a work trip to New Delhi the week after we arrived in Singapore.

She asked me if I wanted to join her at the end of the work week for a few days of mother/daughter adventure. I had just enough time to apply and wait the 7 working days to get my India visa (I had 4 days to spare).

I flew into New Delhi on Thursday morning, getting into town a bit before noon. I had booked a food tour through Viator before I left to start things off until Jenny was done with her work meetings.

The tour's meeting point was a Metro stop near the Delhi University. The Metro maps online were not very helpful, their interactive map was still being developed, so I really had know idea about distances. It turned out to be a 1+ hour ride from our hotel. I had read the Metro was easy to navigate so I got directions from the hotel to the closest station stop Guru Bronacharya.

It took me about 10 minutes to walk to it and another 15 minutes to find the ATM machine and an additional 10 minutes to buy a token for the ride. I went through security at least 3 times before I had everything I needed to board the train.

It indeed is easy to navigate and the very first train car is reserved for women only. There are loads of pink signs pointing to the first car. I felt comfortable there but I was the only non-Indian person in the car. The colors of the saris and the pajamas worn by the younger women were vibrant and exciting. I would say only about 30% wore western clothing.

My tour started at 4pm with my guide Alan. He walked me through the college neighborhood and took me for a petal cab ride which was breathtakingly scary at times.

We walked and ate for 2 hours, nibbling all kinds of good stuff. At our last stop Alan wrote out a list of all I sampled.

Here are a few of the things I ate:

Shawarma Paneer
Bhel Puri

Dahi Puri - my favorite
By the time I got back to the Metro station it was about 6:30 and the line to get into the station and go through security was long, long, long. By this time Jenny was finished with work and texted me to see where I was. She met me at the Metro station with her JLL assigned driver, Shaman. This saved me a walk back to the hotel along dirt roads filled with honking bikes, cars and motorcycles.
Friday morning I enjoyed the goat herds out our hotel window. We were staying right on the border of the city and the country so our window view showed both.

After breakfast Shaman drove us to the city of Agra which is the home of the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world. Built with exacting symmetry, it is a wonderful building to behold.
The city of Agra is small and purposely not industrialized to keep the Taj as clean and safe from pollutants as possible. The streets are filled with people and many street cows, the cows that are no longer useful on the farms but are honored in the Hindu religion and live freely among the people.

The other amazing structure in Agra is the Agra Fort, a huge red marble fort that dominates the city skyline. We enjoyed the fort tour very much. Only about 25% of the fort interior was tour-able but what we could see was fascinating. The interior was designed to capture as much of the breeze as possible

Around sunset we went to the grounds of the Black Taj which was supposed to be built across the river from the Taj, as the burial site of Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal in memory and as the burial site of his wife Mumtaz. The black taj was never built so the Shah is buried next to his wife in the Taj Mahal - the only non symmetrical spot in the site.

I was up early the next morning to visit the Taj at sunrise. Jenny got a bit of the Delhi Belly, probably the small salad she had for lunch. Read more about the Taj here.

Seeing the Taj from up close is just as impressive. The white marble is full of swirls and clear crystals, making it shine in the sunlight. We toured the Taj a second time later in the morning when Jenny felt better. Because of it being the hot season, the crowds were minimal. The temps got up around 115 °F. It's a "dry heat" but it's still hot.

We headed back to New Delhi, passing the F1 Buddh Circuit race track along the road. We also saw many tall thin chimneys used for brick making.

Early Sunday morning we met our last guide, Jimmy Sharma for an Old Delhi/New Delhi tour. The temp got to 116 °F so we did not spend too much time walking around. We had one great bike/cab tour through the old city's market seeing the electric wire jumbles, food stalls and spice shops. Without street signs it's a wonder people find their way around.

Back to the hotel and off to the airport for a late flight back to Singapore. I've never had so many touristy photos taken of me. Thank you Jenny!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Singapore (May 5 - June 30)

When we left Singapore, with Jenny and family staying behind, a return trip was in our future. We finally picked May 5. Our original plan was to leave Singapore on July 5 and fly to Paris for 2 weeks. We decided to wait until June to book the flight to Paris - good thing, since our plans were changing!

Between the time we booked our flight to Singapore and actually got there, Jenny announced she quit her job and travel the world with her family! Her last day in SG was to be June 30 (a week before we were planning on leaving). The family was flying to Copenhagen to start their adventure . Since we had not booked our flight to Paris, we decided to head to Copenhagen, too.

I'm not about to give a day-by-day, or even a week-by-week, description of our visit. Except for a couple of cases that I'll describe below, it was just like "returning home", where we were comfortable with the roads, food, transportation and shops. We also reconnected with many of our friends. We even attended 2 book club meetings, as if we had never left the group.

First, some quick observations:
  • The weather is still very hot and, according to some of our friends, getting hotter.
  • Our Singaporean friends we met at Central Green Condos, who included us so generously in their lives, happily greeted our return.
  • Lee Tai Fu is still one of my favorite bar/restaurants.
  • Transportation is really convenient and good.
  • Food is wonderful, with no lack of places to eat.
  • It's hot (just in case someone forgot).

Early in our move to Singapore (08/31/2014), Pat and I discovered an air-raid shelter with a virtual geocache (GC4XC21 - TBH Trail - The Labyrinth). We could not enter the shelter, but we followed a video (you can access it here) to search for clues and develop the solution to the geocache. Oh, how we wanted to really see the inside.

A friend of ours started a local tour group - Janes Singapore Tours so we went on a tour of Tiong Bahru where we lived for 2 years. The tour added to our knowledge and appreciation of our old neighborhood.

A surprise addition to the tour, for the first time, they had arranged to enter the air-raid shelter. What a treat. This shelter was designed and built into the building at 78 Moh Guan Terrace, in 1939, before the war with Japan. It has long been closed to the public, except for special occasions. When I enter, I immediately noticed the musty smell - very little ventilation. The florescent light have been added - I suspect it was very dark in here during the war.