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Archive for August, 2010

My trips don’t usually take me outside of Europe but this time I’m making an exception. Recently a friend of mine took a job in Singapore, relocated herself to a new country and a totally new culture in another corner of the world. Of course I can’t give up the opportunity to go and visit her! Today I’m hoping to find a few minutes to compare cheap air tickets London – Singapore, from what she’s told me it’s actually quite cheap!

What has she been raving about since she arrived?

The food… and mah-jongg.

We’re quite big foodies, her and I. Like in other countries around the world, Singaporeans love to eat, and my friend also is having no trouble fitting in at the local hawker centre.

Hawker centres starting popping up in Hong Kong and Singapore during the industrial revolution of the 1950s and 1960s and they’re large open-air complexes full of food stalls. This is where the cheap eats are easy to find. Cafeteria-style, this is where the people eat together.

Sundays is the best day to indulge. It’s the day when many of the city’s up-scale hotel restaurants offer brunch for a mere S$80 per person (£35). A bargain for a lavish buffet spread of gourmet food in the middle of a quiet afternoon.

High tea is also something I could definitely get used to, served usually on weekends for S$25 (£11) at only the nicest hotels, the Ritz-Carlton or Raffles. These aren’t places to wear blue jeans, that’s for sure! A little touch of England, it’s actually quite cool that this tradition has stayed in Singapore, complete with scones, garden sandwiches and little cakes. Of course they don’t neglect the local favourites like dim sum and curry puffs.

It’s easy to spend on these gourmet luxuries because the street food is incredibly cheap, and outstandingly delicious. Recipes have been passed down through generations and cooking traditions are just as old. Chinatown is one of the best places to go where you can find eats that represent every one of China’s different regions. Geylang serves up Indonesian dishes at traditional hawker stalls and Little India is the best place for curry in town. Just thinking about it all puts a grumble in my stomach.

Now I just need to master the chop sticks!

If you’ve been to Singapore, please share some tips on what to see… and eat!

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Alternative Zagreb

Holidays are booked! Train schedules are written down in my travel notebook, itinerary ideas are scribbled and the only thing left to do is book a hotel in Croatia, Zagreb to be more specific. I’m not heading to the seaside like the rest, I’m sticking to Zagreb.

One thing I love about Zagreb is that it’s still largely undiscovered by the general tourist public. Croatia surely isn’t though but many seem to still think that this country’s capital is just for passing through. Unfortunately for them, they’re missing a true gem of Croatian culture, not just the folklore you’d expect either. I’m talking about underground alternative culture. It’s thriving.

Where can you find it?

Let’s take it slow here, there a handful of places that will certainly get you started on finding the right trail to Zagreb’s more youthful and alternative culture, perfect for backpackers and those just simply curious in what the “young people” are doing these days.

  • Kino Europa – Old and truly beautiful, this cinema is a landpark on Varšavska Street. Originally it opened in 1924 and now is a cinema/dance hall/café/art gallery/hag out for Zagreb’s artsy youth. Screenings are more likely to include independent films, national & international festival laureates, documentaries, etc. rather than the ones you’ll find at the Movieplex.
  • Zrinjevac – This is a square, a green square  where you’ll likely see a lot of locals on a sunny summer afternoon. There are several fountains and a pavilion as well as a sculpture collection. Live concerts take place here on a regular basis and is lively both day and night.
  • Museum of Street Art – This isn’t exactly a permanent space since street art in Zagreb comes in many shapes and forms. There is a constant dialogue between artists, locals and city authority, what else is new? Check out the wall on Branimirove Street, it’s been painted by some of Croatia’s most famous. Novi Zagreb is notorious for its graffiti.
  • Booksa – When it comes to down-time, Booksa is the place to do it. It’s likely you’ll be the only tourist here, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a book club, it’s cool, all are welcome. Find a comfy chair and browse newspapers and magazines, books, novels and catalogues. Friday nights there is live music or other cultural events.
  • Medika – The first legalised squat house in Croatia, Medika is a thriving art and culture house that is open to the public. Visit the flea market here, join a workshop, watch a dance performance or just hang out. Latte’s are cheap, as is the beer and rakija, so enjoy!

Have you ever been to Croatia or Zagreb? Have any tips to share, places to see?

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