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Singapore

2017 July 3
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by Stanley Quan

Second stop of the trip was Singapore! First impression was their airport, which is amazing.

After checking in to our hotel, we stepped out to explore a bit. That afternoon was blisteringly hot. Instantly started sweating right when we stepped outside…

But that couldn’t stop us from exploring Singapore’s interesting food scene.

I loved going to the hawker centres, which are large open-air cafeterias with a bunch of different food stalls. These were originally set up by the government to better regulate street food.

Now they serve a wide variety of cuisines, including Hainanese chicken rice, which is one of my new favorite dishes. It’s as simple as its name: some chicken, rice (which is cooked in chicken stock), and a little vegetable. Basic but delicious.

We went to a handful of hawker centres to sample other staples like chicken satay and mee goreng, washed down with some local Tiger beer, which is also surprisingly good. I could drink that on tap.

 

One of the other highlights was checking out Gardens by the Bay, which is part of Singapore’s greening project to become a “City in a Garden.” The indoor cloud forest and outdoor supertree light show at night were awesome. We also explored more of the culturally diverse city, including Chinatown, Little India, and Haji Lane.

 

 

 

 

 

Before leaving we grabbed a few Singapore Slings at a cool bar along the bay. A little history: the Singapore Sling was invented in 1915 as a way to make it more socially acceptable for women (#nastywomen) to drink in public! Though we didn’t get to experience much of the nightlife, Singapore seems like it would be a fun city to go out in, with its many bars and clubs (return trip!).

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Taipei, Taiwan

2017 June 28
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by Stanley Quan

5/20-5/22, 6/2-6/3

First stop (and last stop) of the trip was Taipei, Taiwan.

Taipei was all about the FOOD. First place to go upon landing was a night market, of course. I honestly imagined they would be bigger. But they were fun nonetheless with the large variety of food stalls and vendors. We sampled many foods on sticks, dumplings, and boba.

Over a few days, we seemed to just walk and eat all over the city, dining on some other Taiwanese staples like soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung’s birthplace, green onion pancakes, shave ice, pineapple cakes, and beef noodles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suffice to say, we left with full stomachs.

Besides the food, we checked out:

  • Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial- beautiful national monument steeped in history.
  • Maokong Gondola Ride- really cool trip up the mountain and above the trees. So green!
  • Elephant Mountain- hike was a lot steeper and strenuous than we anticipated, but had an awesome view of Taipei 101 as a reward at the top.

I also got a foot massage cause everyone seemed to be getting them. Bad idea. It probably has something to do with my feet in particular, but it was one of the most painful experiences of my life haha. Will not do again.

Another interesting experience had to do with language. Based on how I look, most people there tried speaking Mandarin to me. Though I understand and speak Cantonese much better, I did try to use my limited and rusty Mandarin. More often than not, I unfortunately had to end up with a “wo bu dong” (“I don’t understand” in Mandarin). It was a nice challenge in linguistics though.

Leaving Taipei the first time was quite frustrating due to a personal mistake. I’ll just say this: If you ever book a redeye flight, double, triple, quadruple-check the departure date and time!

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Walk, Snorkel, Eat, Repeat

2017 June 9
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Just got back from a two-week trip to Southeast Asia and recovering from jetlag. It was a much needed break from work and the day-to-day. International travel always gives me a spark – I see and do things that are new and different, and have to tap into challenges that aren’t typically available in everyday life, such as navigating new transit systems or communicating in new languages.

We walked, snorkeled, and ate our way through:

  • 5/20-5/22: Taipei, Taiwan
  • 5/23-5/25: Singapore
  • 5/25-5/27: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • 5/28: Manila, Philippines
  • 5/29-6/1: Coron, Palawan Islands, Philippines
  • 6/2-6/3: Taipei, Taiwan

More highlights to come!

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Across the Pond

2017 May 19
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by Stanley Quan

I spent last weekend across the pond in London and came away loving the city!

It was a work-sponsored trip and it was cool to meet and hang out with co-workers that I don’t normally work with. Our hotel was in Kensington, a cute nice area with easy access to the tube.

The first thing that struck me was how green the city was. There are tons of trees, which was great and needed cause there were also tons of cigarette smokers everywhere.

I loved London because there was so much to do and it was really easy to get around, whether by foot or by public transport.

On my first day, I strolled around Kensington and Notting Hill and then also visited King’s Cross, which was a gorgeous train station that included the famous Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter, and also checked out Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.

At dusk, I went on a graffiti self-guided walking tour in East End, which might have been my favorite part of the trip. There was amazing graffiti art all over the streets. It just so happened to be happy hour, and we saw tons of people drinking beers on the street outside of pubs. Towards the end of our walk, we stumbled upon a park with a mini zipline and a nomadic community garden that definitely had Burning Man vibes.

Day two I checked out some of the city’s tourist sites with Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, River Thames, and the London Eye. The view from above was awesome.

A trip to London wouldn’t have been complete without Indian food, so we went to a restaurant named Punjab that’s been family run for four generations now! The owner was super friendly and we filled up on delicious food. One of their specialty items was Tandoori chicken brandy flambe which was a sight to see.

On my last full day, I took a tour of the Oxford University grounds, which are sprawling and beautiful, and filled with cool architecture. I saw were Bill Clinton’s first “white house” was, aka where he smoked pot and studied as a college kid.

I ate fish and chips for lunch for the second straight day and that dish is pretty underwhelming. Too much fried stuff!

Later in the day, we visited Stratford upon Avon, which is Shakespeare’s birthplace.

Closed out the trip by grabbing some great Greek food at Hungry Donkey, and grabbing a brew and playing ping pong at the Book Club bar.

All in all, I had a fantastic time exploring the city and hope to come back again soon. Cheers!

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Escape

2017 May 10
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It’s been a little over a year since I last traveled internationally and it’s about time to bring that back. As I leave America for pretty much the rest of the month, this quote I heard recently rings true:

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

England, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Philippines here I come!

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