31 July 2014

Swanky Chill Out Bars

Yet again my husband has been busy and after a rather long hiatus offers up suggestions for a couple more bars in Singapore that you may want to explore.

Jigger and Pony

Awhile ago I asked the Twitter community for bar recommendations for a new #chilloutbars post and got a few responses.  These included 28 Hong Kong Street, shhh, it’s a secret but also pretty wonderful and cool in a 'it’s not really there' kind of way and you have to phone in advance to get a table, Speakeasy (which I've mentioned before) great Saturday only Sri Lankan brunch, but why only Saturday? and Jigger and Pony.

We eventually went to Jigger and Pony one Friday evening.  So the basics, it’s a swanky and swish cocktail bar between the CBD and Chinatown, housed in a shophouse type building on Amoy Street (I always think of Chinese sauces of yore when on this street) serving a range of bespoke cocktails.  They are based around a number of interesting themes, ranging from traditional (and forgotten) to innovative and modern.  I started off with a traditional one, The Churchill (apparently a favourite of the wartime leader from which it takes its name) as this was gin based. The most interesting aspect of this pink-ish / red-ish beverage was the old style glass in which it was served.  It was very olde worlde and reminiscent of a sherry glass that Aunt Mildred used to use in the 1970s.  We had several cocktails that evening and were eventually joined by some friends who were sampling the bar for the first time also, so ended up having several more with them.

Another great feature of the establishment is the happy hour nibbles that are distributed before 7pm, the brushetta was an excellent set-up for the drinking to come.

If you are in the area, also try the bars on Club Street or the fabulous 28 Hong Kong Street.

Ku De Ta

One Saturday lunchtime I was pottering around Gardens by the Bay, playing with my camera, when I decided to have a cooling beverage in the lobby bar of the Marina Bay Sands.  It was here that I had the bright idea of a couple of drinks in Ku De Ta (on the boat looking platform of the three towered gamblers paradise hotel) that evening after the usual author of this blog had finished work.  So, I duly booked a table (in the restaurant as it turned out, not what I wanted) and went home to prepare (well to laze by the pool or whatever, it was a long time ago).  

We arrived after dark, and after realising the error in the booking, decided to go to the crowded bar area and attempted to find a stand-up table with a view across the city.  To have a sit down table in the bar area is a ridiculously high minimum spend, $1500 plus, which given there were only two of us we declined.  We ordered a Sauv Blanc and a bottle of beer (Aashi, I believe) and took in the twinkling lights of Singapore from our perch on the top of the hotel.

We had a second round of drinks (four drinks were 90 bucks, which is expensive, even for Singapore) and decided to leave in search of some more reasonably priced drinks and food. On the whole the view is spectacular but not really worth the high price of the drinks and there are much better rooftop bars in Singapore (such as Prelude, Orgo, 1-Attitude or Loof) offering very similar views.  If you are in the area also try South Coast, OverEasy or the rooftop bar at Kinki.

I recently visited Bali again and the Ku De Ta there which, I've since learnt, is not linked to the Singapore one.  I shall be sharing my pick of good places in Bali very soon - stay tuned!

24 July 2014

Temple Hopping Around Angkor

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to return to Cambodia, this time to Siem Reap, thanks to friends who got married there and were kind enough to invite us to join them in their celebrations.  Whilst we were there primarily for the wedding and festivities we could not go to Siem Reap and not take the opportunity to visit Angkor Wat and a few of the other temples too.

We therefore managed to set aside one day in our short trip to do this.  Whilst we could definitely go back and spend more time there, for a limited time period I think we did pretty well with what we did manage to see.  If you are planning visiting Angkor and the temples you can get various ticket options including one day (which is what we went for) and three day passes.  A helpful tip we were told is that if you buy your three day pass after 5pm it can be used for sunset viewing that day as well.  Everyone being issued with a ticket has to have their photo taken which is then included on the ticket.  So don't assume one of your party can go and buy for everybody.  Everybody planning to view the temples will need to be present at the time of purchasing so their photo can be taken.

After getting tickets our day began at the fortified city of Angkor Thom.  This is one of the largest of all the Khmer cities covering some ten square km in size.  It was founded by Jayavarman VII and it's believed it remained the capital until the 17th century.  At its height, the city is said to have boasted a population of perhaps one million!  This was at a time when the population of London was a mere 50,000.  At its height the city had houses, public buildings and palaces all constructed of wood.  This was because dwelling in bricks or stone was reserved for the Gods.  Naturally these buildings all decayed a long time ago leaving behind just a skeleton of a city largely made up of religious structures.

The Bayon

We entered into Angkor Thom through one of the huge gates that still surround it.  We approached the gate by crossing a road over a huge moat (far far bigger than any moat round castles in the UK) which is lined with statues on both sides.  The gate is crowned by four huge faces carved into the stone on each side of the tower.  The faces are said to closely resemble the known statues of Jayavarman VII.  Just seeing this first little bit blew me away, I knew then that it was going to be a very special day!

The Bayon

From this exciting beginning we went on to see our first proper temple of the day, The Bayon.  We actually got a sighting of Angkor Wat on our way to Angkor Thom but this was the first one up close so to speak.  The Bayon continues with the theme of Jayavarman VII's presence being everywhere as the towers here are also decorated with many likenesses of him.  The faces are visible from every angle and exude power but also seemed to me to have an expression of kindness about them as well.  

The Baphuon

After exploring the Bayon we then meandered across the open expanse of grass to the nearby Baphuon.  The Baphuon is a pyramidal representation of the mythical Mt Meru which is the home of the devas in Hindu mythology.  It was the state temple of the Yasodharapura (the name of the city) of King Udayadityavarman II and marked the centre of the city that existed before the construction of Angkor Thom.  As we stood on the viewing platform and looked at the outer buildings (in my photos below) I was really struck by how magnificent this and the other temples must have looked when they were a part of the active bustling cities of Angkor and of just how vast and grand these cities were.

View from The Baphuon

View towards The Baphuon

Before heading off to our next stop we walked alongside the Terrace of the Elephants towards the Terrace of the Leper King.  The Terrace of the Elephants is 300 metres long (running from The Bayon to the Terrace of the Leper King) and decorated with parading elephants.  This was used as a giant viewing stand for public ceremonies and also served as a base for the king's grand audience hall.  The Terrace of the Leper King is a massive terrace with a statue of  a possibly leprous king on top from which it takes its name.

Ta Prohm

After leaving here we made our way to Ta Prohm which I think was my favourite temple but also the busiest of all we visited.  That said though it is quite small in comparison and its ruined state meant everybody was more compacted within a confined space.  What I liked about Ta Prohm though was exactly this ruinous state, the jungle and nature have reclaimed back parts of the temple and the tree roots etc. that have spread into the walls have simply been left.  Its natural look for me conjured up images of explorers and ancient mysteries still to be solved. 

Ta Prohm was built from 1186 by Jayavarman VII and was one of his major temples.  Ta Prohm's original name was Rajavihara or 'the royal monastery'.  This temple was deliberately chosen to be left in its 'natural state' as an example of how most of Angkor looked on its discovery in the 19th century.   

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

Our last stop of the day was at Angkor Wat and just what can I say about this famous temple?  It was just as stunning as I imagined it would be and I was not disappointed.  It was built by Suryavarman II who reigned from 1113 - 1140 and who during his reign unified Cambodia and extended the Khmer influence across much of mainland South East Asia.  Angkor Wat was built at a similar time to many European Gothic cathedrals such as Notre-Dame and Chartres.  The temple was consecrated to the Hindu deity Vishnu and as well as being a temple it was also a city in its own right and originally included a royal palace and numerous other buildings.  

In case you did not know Angkor Wat is the largest religious structure in the world and unlike the other Angkor temples etc. this one was never abandoned to the elements.  Again just like The Baphuon the central tower represents Mt. Meru with its surrounding smaller peaks.  This is in turn is surrounded by the continents (the lower courtyards) and the oceans (the moat).  

Despite being pretty tired (and very hot and sweaty) by this point we climbed and explored Angkor Wat thoroughly, taking in all that it had to offer.  It was incredible to be there, somewhere I never could have imagined seeing for myself.  We had originally planned to visit another temple after this but by this point we were tired, but incredibly happy, after our day of exploring and instead decided to retire for the day back to our hotel.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Looking back at my day I still can't quite believe I actually got the chance to see what I did.  As I mentioned these were places I never imagined I'd ever be seeing in real life and I'm not sure I can ever really do them justice here.  There is always that little bit of worry when visiting somewhere that you've heard so much about and are seemingly so familiar with that it might be a little underwhelming in reality but this was definitely not the case with Angkor.  I'm still only now appreciating just how lucky I am and what I did see!  I hope that perhaps someday I'll get the chance to return to see the temples I've seen in greater detail and some of the many others too.  Even if I don't though I know I'll always look back on this trip with a just a little bit of awe and amazement.

11 July 2014

Love and Friendship Chamber Concerts

Coming up at the Esplanade Recital Studio this September are a pair of chamber concerts which I'm sure will be of interest to you and your family, one concert being aimed at adults and one at children. 

Love and Friendship ~ Mendelssohn, the Schumanns and Brahms

8pm - Wednesday 24 September 2014 Esplanade Recital Studio

Be enthralled by the aching beauty and romantic melodies of Mendelssohn, Robert and Clara Schumann, and Brahms, delivered live by world-class musicians. Immerse yourself as we lead you on a carefully curated musical journey revealing the intertwining love and friendship between these German romantic greats.  Blink and you’'ll miss this one-day only performance!

The intimate Esplanade recital studio is the perfect venue for experiencing the chamber music presented by eminent Singaporean violinist Tee Khoon Tang, critically acclaimed pianist Sam Haywood who performs all over the world as soloist and duo partner to Joshua Bell, and one of Europe's finest young solo cellists Matthew Huber.

Love and Friendship ~ Mendelssohn, the Schumanns and Brahms - A Concert for Children

6pm - Sunday 28 September 2014 Esplanade Recital Studio

If you are 12 and under, and want to experience music up-close, ask questions, listen to accomplished musicians share about the music of great German Romantic composers and be entertained with fun musical games, then you are in for a wonderful treat.

Join eminent Singaporean violinist Tee Khoon Tang, UK cellist Matthew Huber and critically acclaimed British pianist Sam Haywood on a journey through love and friendship in this concert especially for children. We will explore some of the most beautiful and touching chamber music written by Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, and Brahms, which came forth out of their intense love for life, friendships, humanity and heavenly ideals.

Award-winning virtuoso Tee Khoon Tang is Singapore’s second recipient of the National Arts Council’s Violin Loan Scheme, playing a J.B. Guadagnini made in 1750. Sam Haywood is an acclaimed British pianist who performs all over the world as soloist and duo partner to Joshua Bell. Matthew Huber is one of Europe’s finest young solo cellists and chamber musicians. Having received elite music education and performed to audiences around the world, these musicians are now sharing their knowledge and expertise with the budding musician in you.

Admission is open only to children 12 and under. Parents, please grab a cup of tea or go for a round of shopping while your children soak up fifty minutes of great music and get themselves a fun world-class learning experience!

More details about the concerts, performers and where you can purchase tickets can be found here.

Check out violinist Tee Khoon Tang's Facebook page too.

06 July 2014

#worldcolors #worldcolours - June - Blue - What does blue mean to me?

I'm late again but June's colour was blue which reminds me of beautiful skies.  I adore seeing huge expanses of sky either dotted with clouds or completely cloudless.  I appreciate blue skies (though I also love the rainy days here too) even more now after the choking haze of June last year in Singapore.  I couldn't wait to see blue sky again after that.  Likewise the beautiful deep blue of skies at dusk and in the early evening always mesmerises me too. 

Here's a selection of some of my favourite blue skies.

Dusk over Bangkok
Blue sky and clouds reflected in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Blue sky over Lichfield cathedral, UK
Blue sky poking through the trees, Pinewoods, near Liverpool, UK

Blue sky through the Supertrees, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore 
Spring time blue skies, summer is just around the corner! Hever Castle, Kent, UK
Casares, Spain

Supertrees, Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands, Singapore 

If you missed any of my previous #worldcolours posts check them out here
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