Langkawi – Paradise Your Nanna Prayed For

Datai Bay, Langkawi
The Andaman

Langkawi is one of the most blissful and secluded places on Earth. When you want to run away from day-to-day stresses, restore your inner ecosystem and sanity – that is the place to be.

Datai Bay Beach
Datai Bay

Tranquil Datai Bay, dense mesmerizing rainforest with the most unique species glazing through gigantic trees. You won’t find bunches of compadre tourists, queuing for ice-cream and banana rides – this is a different level of relaxation: no noise except singing cicadas and splashing waves.

img_8645
The Andaman, Datai Bay Rainforest

There is no rush here: time itself is elastic. The horizon and the Andaman sea have lost that line defining what is what. Datai Bai beach is serene and harmoneous – it seems like it was meant to be just yours.

img_0675-1

Food in Singapore

Do not plan any diets on your trip to Singapore. You might enjoy the weather, tall buildings, and gazillions of Louis Vuitton stores, but your strolling through Chinatown with an empty stomach is as cruel as a visit of a diabetic to the “Cafe Savoy”.

Embrace this heavenly food spot. Savour, dig, eat up and feast on.

No matter where you go, food will be amazing. Nevertheless, here are some brightest dishes I still drool over:

Singapore Black Pepper CrabIMG_0478

This fellow and his cousin Chilli Crab are divine. So spicy and succulent! We had to wash our hands 5 times to get rid of the “black nails effect” – locals were smarter: a pair of plastic gloves did their job. Although, we had more fun! “Jumbo Seafood” restaurants are famous for the best seafood in Singapore. We had ours in Chinatown and enjoyed as much.

Grilled Whole Fish with Dry Chillis and PeanutsIMG_0570

Out tilapia drenched with fragrant spicy sauce, heaped with dried chillis, peanuts and coriander looked  more flammable than  it was in reality. It weighs about 900g-1kg each – great fun to share. Even though it is a relatively mild dish, unprepared troops will have to  calm their palates. This dish is available in almost every restaurant from Riverside to Chinatown.

“Din Tai Fung” Dim SumIMG_0518

I refused the idea of eating in a shopping mall at first. “Authentic? What are you talking about?!” This chain might not be located on one of the streets, where locals gather for a ritual evening coffee, but it is incredibly good. There is just this odd local habit of dining in shopping malls. Thus, the best of them are based there. Service is fast, dim sums are mouth-watering and the lemongrass iced tea is the best one I have ever tried.

Korean BBQIMG_0540

DIY method is the best: there is so much fun, interaction and sense of community. Smartphones stay in your pockets – hands are too busy. The side dishes are infinite. You will choose the meat you would like to grill. Be aware that there is a strict “no food waste” policy: 150$ fine for greedy ones, who can not handle their inconceivably vast order. We had our Korean BBQ experience in “Seoul” restaurant at the Four Seasons, but almost every street in Singapore will have a great Korean restaurant.

Bakkwa or Chinese Beef Jerky

d8dbf7ba2a1908bf178588113aef93e4

No, you would not find the same beef jerky in other places. It melts in your mouth. The balance of sweet and salty is sublime. Grab a beer, a kilo of this highly addictive snack and get rid of your jet lag disorder symptoms.

Speaking of beer, it is extremely expensive in Singapore: 6$ – 7$ for a bottle. I guess, you have to learn the art of slow savouring.

 

Chasing The Flying Dutchman

Amsterdam canals
Amsterdam canals

Without them the world would not see orange carrots, ice skates, yachts, Spinoza and liberalism. We would never be able to find Ursa Major and Orion if those brilliant minds had not invented a telescope. They are the gifted, straightforward and friendly European Gullivers, also known as the Dutch.

We had been savoring the idea of our trip to the Netherlands for a year, carefully planning the cities to visit, boats to ride, herrings to swallow and stories to discover.

Despite rain (it was October), cranky mornings and bunches of tourists everywhere, we managed to take a glimpse at so called “still Dutch phenomena” with its bikes, windows life, canals, pancakes, Van Gogh and creativity.

Time was the resource we didn’t have – that’s why our expedition to Amsterdam, the Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht was compressed to 5 days. Seemed impossible at first, but great transportation, short distances between those places and dedication to lose a couple of pounds helped a lot.

Amsterdam - Netherlands
Amsterdam – Netherlands

Amsterdam certainly had that special something – an indescribable quality somewhere between quaint and exhilarating. Lights, canals, reflections, bicycles – everything was blended into a charming postcard image. In two days we were able to take a canal cruise, enjoy ingenious architecture, visit Van Gogh Museum and eat the most delicious pancakes at “Pancakes! Amsterdam” as well as famous herring at “Stubbe’s Haring”.

Our first dining experience reinforced the stereotype about bad service. The waiter forced us to order rapidly, and left us to dry over empty pints of beer. The amount of Argentinian restaurants made a strong impression as well. Seemed like a “tio Juan” escaped the outskirts of Buenos Aires, opened a restaurant in Amsterdam, helped 1\4 of his compatriots with working visas – then developed the biggest franchise of “Gringo Steak House”. Anyhow, the ribs are are amazing there. Craving for traditional Dutch food? – Well, those crispy “Vleminckx” fries with peanut butter sauce on the corner of Voetboogstraat, 31, herring with chopped onions, incredible pancakes and various fried dough sweets would be your choice.

Amsterdam lifestyle
Amsterdam lifestyle

If you need to buy something – better hurry up! Stores and fast food places are open until 5 p.m., unless you manage to find a Chinese place. Those tough guys would feed and supply you if you are late.

Amsterdam was definitely one of the most romantic, charismatic and atmospheric places we’ve ever been to.

The Hague was the most controversial city of all: justice and criminals, perspectives and stagnation are blended together in one smoothie where ingredients are hard to recognize. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a legendary Binnenhof and had fun pretending to be Godzillas in Madurodam.

The Hague - Madurodam
The Hague – Madurodam

Rotterdam welcomed us with one of the most horrifying storms: the umbrella was destroyed in a blink of an eye; my hair was a ready-to-live eagle nest. Despite all those moments we managed to have a quick run to make amazing shots of that altar to creativity with its famous Kijk Kubus – a Dutch anthem to imagination and freedom of ideas implementation; the iconic Erasmus Bridge – an important connection between the Northern and Southern parts of Rotterdam. (the project can be a perfect example of a “budget-time-purpose” symphony).

The Erasmus Bridge - Rotterdam
The Erasmus Bridge – Rotterdam

Our cozy CitizenM Hotel gave us a perfect introduction into Rotterdam’s futuristic way – the best place for young people to stay. The rest of the day we spent in Markthal gazing at vast variety of cheeses and other delights.

Utrecht
Utrecht

Utrecht was very special to me: a traditional breakfast at atmospheric canal place – “De Bakkeerswinkel”, fairy tale houses, charming canals, breathtaking Domtower view (by the way, the climbing process will help to rediscover well-forgotten claustrophobia, acrophobia and every possible phobia).

When your hotel provides you with jumbo playing cards, a window sit to watch the canal, a hand-made rabbit toy and shelves full of books to recreate Alice in Wonderland scenes – it’s worth staying. MaryK Hotel was adorable!

I am riding a memory train watching the most nostalgic memories passing by. What do I see? – Romance, charm, bikes, creativity, canals, soft salmiak candies, boats and mystery. It is a place to come back – no doubts!