Touching a volcano

Have you stayed on a volcano that is not dormant? We don’t mean visiting, but staying there. As you know, the Philippines lies on the pacific ring of fire. The Taal volcano is said to be the most active one after Mayon. Its most recent stirrings was in 2011, and fortunately did not lead to a severe seismic event.

That was where we spent a weekend.

Guess one can say we ticked a bucket list item: “staying on a volcano”… beat that! Heheh. Alright, so living it dangerously wasn’t really what we did. However it was indeed a beautiful place to be. It’s no wonder that the views are rated as some of the most picturesque in the country. You need to be here to witness it for yourself. Or, you could read more about our volcanic adventure here.

If you read the page, did you see how people have enterprisingly made use of the lake? We did not visit the island within an island. One of the few in the world… sigh. That would mean we need to make a return trip. Intrigued? You should be. For if it weren’t the crowds on a weekend we chose to be there, we would have seen and done more.

Wouldn’t this inspire you to come here too?

Visiting Suan’s castles

Yeah. The name sounds like her castle. Because Neuschwanstein literally means the New Swan stone castle. Or will someone correct us?


There is a saying about ‘building castles in the air’. And in this part of Germany where there once was a Kingdom called Bavaria, a certain King in the 19th century certainly built more than that. For his dreams actually turned reality, though it cost the country a lot of money. Some say he had lost his mind. Others believe he had passion (made possible) heheh… take that STPB!

Of course there is more than this one inspiration for Walt Disney. For the same King also commissioned works on quite a few others too. Bavaria and its capital Munich is literally dotted with beautiful palatial castles that one needs to more than visit. We say that because it was truly a pleasure to do so. Read here all about what we found.

And it is also in Bavaria that Suan met with her long time penpal. Imagine that. Writing and sending written letters in an age of the internet. She might be one of the few these days since our postal service ‘complains’ about falling mail volume and having to look for alternate revenue streams. And so that we can continue to receive dividends too… which btw has been falling…

An old saying goes: the pen is mightier than the sword. Really?

Do you still write on paper or is it all typing away as you read this post now? Do you even remember how to use a pen?

Suzhou (苏州) and 太湖

Having read all about Hangzhou’s West Lake (here), we hope your appetite has been whet for more stories of what short road trips one can take while in Shanghai. Literally a stone’s throw away in today’s terms, Suzhou can be counted as one of the places where a day’s journey can yield a treasure trove of experiences that brings you back to the time of the Song/Sung dynasty.

Whereas Hangzhou is a city of tea and home of Longjin (龍井), Suzhou is a city of silk it is said. And when we were in the city it seemed evey corner there were vendors trying to sell you the most wonderful quality fabric… let’s just say we were not interested to buy any…

What some might know of the other side of the city is its famed gardens. Home to quite a few of the largest private classical gardens in China, they were the abode of bureaucrats or merchant princes from a golden age. For as one of the cities of eastern China, it had grown wealthy from being the terminus of the grand canal – the source of booming trade that flowed between north and south China, someday which we want to explore too.

But Suzhou is not just the city. It is also near lake Tai, one that is so large that it continues to supply freshwater to surrounding cities. Let this essay enchant you into perhaps not just road tripping there, but stay longer. Have you been the this half of heaven?

Durian Party, part deux

One year ago, we posted about how we in the little red dot have Durian parties. Today’s post sets out to explain what this fruit is about and where it stands in the culture of our little red dot. Well it’s that time of the year again. For those aspiring travellers who wish to be immersed into local culture, well this is it.

The mighty Durian. Ok the King. Not Elvis.

No. Not the funny looking theatre that you can see along Marina Bay in our little red dot. We are referring to this lime greenish fruit with a lot of thorns. And one that for some – smells. BAD. Woah!

Did you know

  • Though Thailand is not supposedly where the fruit is native (it’s mainly Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei), but produces the bulk of commercially traded fruit?
  • The fruit does offer nutrition other than the perceived sugar only (because it’s sweet), such as potassium, iron, vitamins B and C in reasonable dosages?
  • Even Elephants and Tigers are said to eat the fruit (to be verified). Probably the ones that have ripened and fallen to the forest floor.
  • There are varieties of the fruit that have very little odour. In fact there are so many of them for different taste, aroma and even shape.

Heheh. Does not matter how many facts one list. You either love it or hate it. And for travelers who want to blend in and be ‘like the locals’, this would be your challenge. You are not a local in southeast Asia if you hadn’t ate this fruit. Come on lah. If the Kings of the animal kingdom enjoy this fruit, why not you?

Doesn’t this goad you to pluck up the courage and try out the ‘King’ of Fruits?

Can couples be best friends?

Can you best buddy be your lover too?

What has this to do with our blog? Well lots! Mel and Suan are bosom buddies in placing our travel handprints all over the world whenever we can. Oh yes we strive to be! Like Abang and Neng, it proves that just because you are friends you cannot be lovers too…

In one of our post some months back, it’s about keeping the sparks alive with joint memories. Why not continue ‘honeymooning’ as we describe here? Beautiful memories are best built with someone, especially your love ones.

Is you lover your best friend too???

The Long Journey Q3-15

Another retrospective post of our newsletter. Intent to backdate till Q1-15 – aka January 2015, as if we begun blog posting then… hee

This issue is one with an example of how we find ways and means to catch up and meet with travel companions and friends made from many years ago. Val is still leading tours all over even at her advanced age. What a gal! We met in the summer (northern hemisphere one) of 1996 when taking the Trafalgar tour of Scandinavia. Her camera went kaput and fortunately we had a spare which we lent her. And those where the days of the film camera!

All these years we had kept in constant contact and exchanged greeting cards (Suan did the work of course). Whenever Val has a stopover in Singapore on her way to any of her long journeys, we will try to meet up for a meal, coffee etc. Anyhow, for this occasion, Val did not have much of a stopover and we only had some morning coffee before she headed to the airport.

Click The Long Journey Q3-2015 to view PDF

For our own selves, we were in “avatar” land, the famous Zhang-Jia-Jie (张家界). Supposedly the landscape that inspires the movie, we spent a full 3 days in the area but were thwarted by the mist! It seems that this is the norm more than exception…

Natural Great wall21
View of the Natural Great Wall – well what we could see anyway.

I guess this gives us the reason to visit again, hopefully when the skies are clearer!