Singapore Diary #1: Old Favorites

During my first week in Singapore, I spent most of my time with my students at the school, though we did get to go on a tour of the city to see all the prominent neighborhoods – Chinatown, Little India, and Kampong Glam (the Malay area). Last time I was here, I mostly just walked through these streets, so it was fun to see them with an actual guide and learn more about their history. Of course, I stopped by Haji Lane and checked out the shop where I got the cat brooch (The Dulcet Fig). This time they were having a sale on their brooches so I splurged and bought two. I even met the cat again!

Chinatown at night, and the Sultan Mosque

Graffiti in Haji Lane

Little India at night

Kampong Glam’s Sultan Palace (now the Malay Heritage Center)

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown, outside…

… and inside

Lunar New Year decorations in Chinatown

And finally, here’s some gnarly-looking “medicine” being sold in Chinatown:

Dried lizards. Yum!

I’ll be back next week with new things I’ve discovered in Singapore!

Hello From Singapore

singapore outfit by 14 shades of grey

Just a quick post to let you guys know my week in Singapore is going well. It’s been raining almost every day, so it’s a lot cooler than I expected. I could’ve worn jeans if I wanted to! Still, I didn’t regret my packing strategy – I have plenty of choices for mix-and-match. The above outfit is a good sampler of what I wear most days (often I would have to add my blazer as well, because like I said, Singaporeans like their AC set to “arctic”.) I actually left a pair of sandals at home – three pairs of shoes are plenty – and I didn’t miss them at all.

I’m pretty busy with my students in classes and on excursions so I won’t be able to post much in the next two weeks, but there will be SIA posts on Monday as usual. See you guys!

Singapore Packing List II

Remember when I went to Singapore for 3 days to see Dylan Moran back in 2015? And I said I wished I had stayed longer? Well, wish granted – I’m going to back Singapore, for 3 weeks this time, on a work trip. I’m shepherding a group of students to participate in an exchange program with another university there, which is pretty exciting. Still, I’m glad that I’ve already been to Singapore; that means I can better focus on my task and help the students instead of figuring out a new country.

Of course, it helps with the packing as well. I’ve never packed for a business trip before, but luckily it’s a pretty casual affair, so my packing list came together pretty quickly. I didn’t have the time to doodle or paint it this time, so a quick photo will have to do:

singapore packing list by 14 shades of grey

Tops: 2 button-ups (white & blue print), 2 sleeveless blouses (white & blue print), 2 dressy tees (black & white), and 2 casual tees (black & gray)

Bottoms: 2 wide-leg pants (black & white), 1 casual navy linen pants, & 1 dressy gray linen pants

Shoes: 1 pair of black flats and 2 pairs of sandals (brown & nude)

Accessories: 1 scarf, 1 necklace, 1 brooch

As you can see, it’s all light, natural fabric in neutral colors, to maximize the mix and match. Now, the difficult thing is that we’re having a cold snap here in Hanoi, meaning I’m going to travel from one climate to another. So I had to plan a separate airplane outfit, something that’s warm enough and can still be worn in Singapore:

singapore airplane outfit by 14 shades of grey

My trusty striped tee, a black blazer, black khaki pants, a big (but light) scarf, and sneakers. We’re going to walk a lot, so the sneakers are a must, and they tend to crank their AC to “arctic”, so I suspect the scarf and blazer won’t be superfluous either. With each trip, my packing gets a little better, so we’ll see how well I packed this time!

Europe On Film

This is the last post about my trip, I promise! And it’s more of a photo essay anyway…

As you may know, I’ve been getting into film photography for a while now. For my Euro trip, I decided it would be fun to bring my film camera along, even though everybody told me I was crazy for lugging around two cameras plus films (really, the weight wasn’t  bad. The films are light, and since my film camera only has the 50mm lens on it, it’s not that heavy either.)

I ended up shooting 4 rolls of film during my 5-week trip. Here’s the terrible thing, though: only about a third of the shots came out! One roll was broken, which was my fault, I made a mistake when unwinding it. But for the rest, I think there was something wrong with the film – I bought expired films because they were cheaper, thinking it wouldn’t matter. Stupid me. (I refuse to believe I was that bad of a photographer, because in the same roll, a shot would come out perfectly while the very next one would be foggy/blurry/overexposed.) I’m only glad that I didn’t rely on the film camera, so I still had plenty of good photos from my DLSR.

In the end, here are some of the best shots I got:

The Belfry of Bruges

The main canal in Ghent

An accidental double exposure of the Japanese Tower in Brussels and an Amsterdam canal – I kinda like it

More canals in Amsterdam



A street in Amsterdam, and flowers in Amstel Park

A bit of Iceland – the horses, Dyrholaey, and my friend at Kerid crater

This hasn’t put me off film photography while traveling, but next time, I’ll make sure to bring good films!

The Netherlands Diary #6: Deventer & Utrecht

In my post about the Amsterdam Gay Pride Parade, I said there were two reasons I stayed an extra week in the Netherlands. One was the Parade itself, and the other was a book fair held on the first Sunday of August in Deventer, a town in central Netherlands. It is said to be the biggest book fair in Europe, with 6 km (!!!) of stalls winding all through the Old Town and along its riverbank. I knew I couldn’t pass up such a chance. So on Sunday, I got up early and took the train to Deventer (it takes 1.5 hours from Amsterdam, and the fair started at 9:30).

If you ask me what Deventer is like as a town, I wouldn’t be able to answer. As I left the train station, I followed the signs (and the crowd) to the main square, where the stalls began, and I didn’t see anything else after that. It was all books, books, books as far as the eyes could see. It was like Heaven. Of course, most of the books are in Dutch, but just basking in that atmosphere is exciting enough. After wandering around a bit to take it all in, I did find some stalls specializing in English books and spent the rest of the morning browsing through them.

I have died and gone to Heaven

It was fun to people-watch too (I really liked that dress)

Because of my luggage weight, I had to limit myself to 5 books. I ended up getting just three, but for less than 10 euros, I’m happy with my haul.

Book haul!

I couldn’t walk through all 6km of stalls, of course. By the early afternoon, my legs were screaming, so after a quick lunch, I got on the train again and headed toward Utrecht – it was on the way back to Amsterdam, and it was a town I’m interested in.

I didn’t spend too much time at Utrecht (mostly because I was exhausted), but I liked what I saw. I walked along the canals, visited the central museum, and finally settled down for a cup of delicious hot chocolate at the museum cafe. Utrecht has more of a scholarly air than other Dutch towns I’ve visited, and I also like that the canals there have stairs leading down from the streets, so you can walk along them. And of course, its most famous creation, Miffy (or Nijntje, as she’s known in Dutch), is everywhere.

The canals of Utrecht

Two views of the Dom Tower

The Dom Cathedral’s garden

And with that, my absolutely wonderful trip was over. It has reawakened the wanderlust in me, and now I can’t wait to plan my next trip. Where should I go?

The Netherlands Diary #5: Amsterdam Gay Pride Parade

There are two reasons I stayed in the Netherlands an extra week after our Iceland trip, and one of them is the Gay Pride Canal Parade in August. I’ve never seen a gay pride parade before, and since the Amsterdam parade is unique in that it is held on the canals, I knew I had to check it out.

On that day, my friend from The Hague also came up for the festivities, so we met her at the Central Station and walked to the start of the parade – at Westerkerk, near Anne Frank’s House. The parade was scheduled to start at 1:30 PM, but at 11 AM, the station and the streets were already thronged with people dressed up in all sorts of colorful and outrageous costumes. The closer we got to Westerkerk, the thicker and noisier the crowd got – there were party boats all along the canals blasting music at full volume. It was a bit stressful, but oddly exciting at the same time.

By the time we got to Westerkerk, the line along the canal was at least three-deep, and there was absolutely no room left on the bridges – since those are the best spots for photos. So we wandered down the canal, in the same direction as the parade, until finally I found an empty spot between two houseboats. It wasn’t ideal, but at least it was clear and we could watch the parade. It was truly an explosion of colors and sounds. There were all sorts of boats from all sorts of organizations, but my favorite has to be the senior citizens’ – their slogan is “Ou(d)t and Proud” (“oud” means “old” in Dutch). That’s clever.

Even this cutie is getting in the spirit of things

After an hour, though, we were beginning to get sensory-overloaded, so we left for the quieter side streets and stopped at a café for some much-needed refueling. After that, we just wandered in the general direction of the parade, until we ended up at its conclusion at Rembrandtplein, on the other side of the old town. There was a huge street party nearby, but we’re not exactly party girls, so we decided to call it a day and went home.

I was exhausted from all the noises and the sights, but still, I had a great time – I may be a hardcore introvert, but sometimes it’s fun to go outside of my comfort zone and join a huge celebration like this. This is Amsterdam at its wildest, and I’m glad I got to see it.

The Netherlands Diary #4: Amsterdam

After 10 days in the Netherlands, I finally arrived in Amsterdam. Knowing its reputation as the party center of Europe, especially in the weeks leading up to the Gay Pride Parade, I was a bit apprehensive at what I was going to find. To my great relief, it’s not much different from the other Dutch small towns I’ve visited. Sure, it’s bigger, there are more tourists, and there’s the constant smell of weed in the air, but other than that, I found the same pretty canals, the same cute crooked houses, and quiet streets if you know where to look for them (hint hint: the Jordaan neighborhood. Seriously. Just five minutes up the canal from Anne Frank’s House, and the crowds melted away. Plus Café Winkle 43 with their famous apple pie is right there.)

A corner of Jordaan

Inside Winkel 43 and a slice of their heavenly apple pie

I didn’t do a lot of the touristy things in Amsterdam – I didn’t take a boat tour, I didn’t rent a bike (my friends, whom I stayed with, live in the south end of town so I had to take the metro into town center), I didn’t go to the Red Light District (not at night anyway) and I didn’t buy any weed from a coffee shop. I didn’t even go to Anne Frank’s House! I know, it’s like going to Paris and skip the Eiffel Tower, but honestly, it was always insanely crowded, and even with my Museumkaart, I would have to wait in line for 45 minutes to an hour. I’m OK with that choice.

View from the top of the Amsterdam central library

And of course, there are bikes everywhere

Even dogs ride bikes

A vintage car and the headquarters of the CIA (Comics Import Amsterdam)

Making friends with the local feline population, as usual

What I did do is walking along the canals taking in the sights, and going to all of the museums. I went to the big ones like Rijkmuseum (I spent an entire a day there), Van Gogh Museum, and Rembrandt House, but the pleasant surprise was the National Maritime Museum. It’s free with my Museumkaart, and it was rainy that day, so I figured, what the hell, let’s check it out. It has a lot of great history, you get to climb on a real ship, and my favorite is the navigation room, where all the devices used for navigation back in the day are laid out under a starry ceiling. It was a great way to spend a morning.

It was the hottest day in the Netherlands, so everybody was cooling off in the pool in front of Rijkmuseum

The corridor leading up to The Night’s Watch, and a SIA classic – The Milkmaid

The dollhouse that inspired “The Miniaturist

I want that comb… and that library

The Royal Palace (a tour inside is free with the Museumkaart as well)

The ceiling of the National Maritime Museum

The navigation room – it looks like the inside of the TARDIS!

After coming back from Iceland, I had a week left, so that time I spent at open-air markets like the Waterlooplein Flea Market, Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market), and Albert Cuypmarkt, to shop for gifts. True, these markets may be geared toward tourists with lots of stalls selling knickknacks and souvenirs, but I wasn’t that particular about buying unique gifts (I ended up getting a scarf for my mom, a bulb of amaryllis for my dad, and stroopwafels for everybody else) so I really liked them. Plus it was fun just to people-watch.

It was also the week of my birthday, so I dropped into a few vintage shops to find something for myself. I didn’t get a picture of the dress I bought, but you’ll see it on the blog soon enough.

Bloemenmarkt and Albert Cuypmarkt

The two things I didn’t get – the dress is too expensive, and the skirt has slits up way too high

I still have one more post about Amsterdam, but my impression of the city was a fun, relaxing, quirky place. It may be a bit too outgoing for my taste, but there’s definitely more to it than just sex, drugs, and parties!