Archive for the 'travel blog' Category


Taking a bite out of the the apple

I have been so busy with work, finally having some time this Thanksgiving Weekend to fill in my blog. That’s something to be thankful for.

Subway selfie.

Not going to talk about the nail biting things that I do for a living, but more of my usual travel adventures, a recent trip to NYC… partly as a favor to a friend and neighbor, also that I had been wanting to go visit but nobody around me is interested in that trip. Friends and family back home will never understand if I work in NY state and never visited the Big Apple. I just needed to say been there done that and move on to things that interest me more.

Stepping out of the subway, into the 911 Memorial

Ok, so visiting NYC was never big on my mind, but I don’t mind going if the opportunity presents itself. Chai needs help driving a rental minivan to deliver her soon to be abandoned furniture to her siblings who are in NYC. So, I being the person who can drive anything, not many of my types among her circle 🙂 , was roped in for this job. My reward will be a 2 night stay in Queens and guided tour NYC. I like that deal.

I am trying to understand the architect…. no luck tho.

1st, get the van from Alamo at Albany airport. Chai drove me there and we returned in separate vehicles. She then begins the loading while I am stuck in 2 meetings. Good thing meetings don’t have to be in the office… so its just so convenient for me to pop out run a errand, back to join in a meeting call, then out to help Chai, then back to pack my bags.

We hit the roads 1645hrs on a Friday afternoon, hoping we wont have too much traffic going into the city at about 2100hrs. Driving this sluggish 2017 Dodge minivan is ….. boring. The fuel economy is surprisingly good, maybe that’s why the pick up is terribly slow. Interestingly, the sun was beating down on the windscreen and it was not hot. The glass felt cool to touch, and even the black lined fabric ceiling in a black van was cool to touch. Quite amazed at the insulation and technology… Impressive. I like the very black interior afterall.

My picture with Liberty says it all

2000hrs, we made it to the outskirts of the City and traffic is a little bad. 2100hrs we are parked at a H-mart close to her sis’s place and waited to meet her bro. Had dinner in Flushing. A Chinese foodcourt, almost like Singapore…. Not quite the same food, but close enough. Then we drove the van and parked at her bro’s and left it to him to unload the next day. He drove us back to the sis’s place. Sis is on vacation so it was just us. Watched a lot of TV before hitting the sack.

Food discovered.

0800hrs, we walked 15 mins or so to the town of Flushing. A Malaysian coffeeshop breakfast, Nasi Lemak is served here. Pretty good, but I am spoilt by the luxury flavored Singapore style of Nasi Lemak …. :p .. Next, a subway ride to 911 Memorial.

This is not a attraction for me … but I don’t mind being there.

Street food served…. not in a cheapie container. Impressed.

I like the remainder of the day very much tho. We walked from the Memorial in the direction of the water. Found my bearings once I see water. I guess that’s a sign that I need to be close to the water… probably conned Chai into a very long walk that she wasn’t prepared for, on a rather windy chilly day.

The greatest library I have been to.

I got my picture with the Lady out on the rocks… then we walked a mile on the waterfront broadwalk, heading north where I hope to eat lunch at Iron Chef Morimoto’s restaurant… but nope we couldn’t walk 5 miles on this day. After 2 miles, we cut inwards looking for a subway entrance and then food in midtown…. but I spotted activity in a fenced off area with blue tents and found food before we found the subway 🙂

My lunch was great! Yakisoba and grilled squid for $15! Cooked by real Japanese and taste real authentic. Perhaps its was a much better deal than $50 at Morimoto’s… I love the outdoor ambience too.

Guess where I am.

We made it to 5th Avenue by about 3pm, and I got to cross another item off my “if I made it to NYC” list… eating a NY cheesecake and drinking coffee. We found Junior’s famous NY cheesecake by Yelping and I ate a slice all by myself. Yummy… it was rich and very heavy, way I like it… but no, not another 1 for a while. It will take a month to digest it thru my system before I crave it again…

Next on the list, Times Sq and 5th Ave. Ok, did that. And we were attracted to visit the grand NY library. I enjoyed that history and display very much. Its so fascinating to me that librarians are not just the people you see working in the library. There are those in the back working with records and filing away information for future generations. I never thought of it that way before. And at this library, I get to feel the work of generations of librarians, generosity of people who gave to education and the preservation of information, the history of it all.

Not really into tall great buildings, but this is a statement of where I have been.

By now, we’ve walked too many miles. More than 30,000 steps according to Chai. And I have my picture with the Empire State building, so I made my point, been there done that. Time to head back. Got a dinner at another Flushing foodcourt. Another foodcourt meal that I did not finish. Not my kind of taste….

Was past 9pm by the time we got back to her sis place. Another movie marathon and then conked.

9am Sunday morning breakfast with Bro and family at Tim Sum place. Classy restaurant. Much better food 🙂 11am got the van and drove out to unload remaining stuff at sister’s place. Follow by shopping at H-mart where I got $80 worth of frozen seafood. Brought my ice box just for that 🙂 . They have all the exotic seafood just like they have it in their Seattle stores.

Me and the Chirashi in Mitsuwa supermarket in New Jersey.

2pm, we made it to Mitsuwa on the NJ side of Hudson. Its a Japanese supermarket and food court that Norithito told me about. Chai doesn’t enjoy the Japanese culture as much as I do … so this one is all me 🙂 . My best Chirashi since Narita! But otherwise, they are not as well stocked in exotic frozen seafood as the H-mart.

Another 3 hrs of driving North on I87 and we got home before 7pm. Very pooped, as I did all that driving. It was intense in the city and just long on the highway in this sluggish van. But I got what I wanted. Was a fair trade…. I feel like I came out tops 🙂


Want more Singapore food!

Goodie from SG day.

In upstate NY, you just have to cook it yourself … or if you are lucky, there are just over 500 Singaporean here who might be a neighbor 🙂

But ok, so I am 1 of those who can cook, just need a little motivation sometimes. This Singapore proud packaged noodle that I got in a goodie bag from Singapore Family day is a inspiration …. I guess…

We all know that what you see on the packaging is not what you gonna get. There will not be prawns, sliced fish cakes, sprouts .. etc. But the way I make it, I will get more than what is on the packaging 🙂 … and it says ready in 7 mins… yeah right..

Isnt that better than what was on the packaging?

Start a pot boiling, add dried shrimp and slivers of dried abalone, sliced garlic and onions. Let it boil at low heat for 1 hr, while I prepare the other ingredients… like peeling shells off real prawns and slicing the best fishballs  (in place of fish cakes) that I can get at the local Asian market.

To make it more nutritional, I slice up carrots, mushrooms and French beans.

After an hour of boiling the stock… maybe 2 hrs … I was tending my virtual city so lost track of time… add carrots, shrimps and fishballs to the pot. Open the package, follow the instructions on the back. From this point, it will take only 7 mins to complete the cooking. Add mushrooms and French beans only 1 minute before turning off heat.

The verdict, the stock was fabulous. Really do taste like Laksa from back home in SG. The noodles are good, I like the texture, it goes well with the stock… but real SG Laksa will be thick bee hoon noodle, not wholegrain wheat LaMian. Overall, it was good and easy… and it was my choice to take all that time to make it better. Yeah, I will pay US$3 for that package noodle again when I have the next Laksa craving attack. 🙂



A Singapore gathering in upstate NY

My Singapore day feast in upstate NY.

Well, I couldn’t be further away from home than being in NY, but I am not alone 🙂

A real paper and leaf wrapped Nasi Lemak! … but its missing my fav fish….

I know, I go back to SG every year, sometimes twice, I get my fill of real authentic hawker foods and carry with me lots of canned food and special ingredients, so I really don’t miss much, but still it is nice to meet people who share my heritage and love for native Singaporean foods half the world around.

This is the weekend before Singapore’s 52nd National Day, and I guess there is enough Singaporeans here in upstate NY to come together, organize this gathering and cook up a feast!

Most fresh ingredients are locally sourced, and some packaged foods came in by freight of course…. yes, the popiah skin isn’t as nice as those fresh in SG ones, and there is no “kunning” fish in my Nasi Lemak… but that pandan cake is phenomenal, so is that satay and peanut sauce!

Oh yes, lots of Singapore National day music in the background and lots of Singlish all around… Actually I felt a little out of place … for not wearing red…. good thing nobody wanted a group photo …

And a bag of goodies… my favorite Kong Guan biscuits, Prima packaged noodles … not sure what to do with the flag and red/white longish floats …. Singapore shaped Singlish post its? … hmmm…..

So I am not a missing Singaporean anymore. I been logged…. by the Overseas Singaporean Unit. I guess this 1 reason for me to like being in NY…. for 2 years I lived in SG isolation in a little remote town Port Townsend…


Another 48hrs on the train

22 Apr 1400hrs: We had a 4hrs layover at Chicago Union station, that gave me the chance to do a walking cruise downtown Chicago and had lunch.

Bright and cheery gallery car.

Then we board the #7 Empire Builder. We are doing this ride from the originating station to the destination station… I think we are the only passengers that will be on it for the entire journey, not counting the crew of course. Even then, some crews get on/off at various points along the way too.

I would love to own acreage with flat grassy farming soil and a cliff on the back.

On the Empire Builder, cabins are exactly like our last train, but there is a gallery and lounge car that is such a treat. I guess it doesn’t make good sense to have a gallery car on a overnight train like the #49. Whereas the Empire Builder is going cross country and in daylight everyone would want to hang out and mingle. Again, I am happy that the ridership is about 30%, such that the gallery and dining car were never so full up.

Heading into the cascades.

I am a happy patron of the lounge, no queue, and my beer is nicely chilled. Its surely double what I pay for at the supermarket, but its about the same when I buy it from a pub. So nah, I dun have a problem with buying 2 bottles a day for 2 days. Poor attendant was not getting enuf customers nor tips to make his trip worthwhile, and train passengers are not really the generous tipping kind… sigh… guess why the grumpy lounge attendant was happy to see me? 🙂

Our view from the dining car. A moment of peace as we finish our last bites.

Oh yes, I must say that I am very happy that we have our own kettle, especially on this longer leg where we are stuck on board for 48hrs. We certainly saved money from not buying lousy coffee or cup noodles (chicken flavored only!) from the lounge car. We brought our own coffee mixes, tea bags, cocoa, instant cereal and “hot and spicy shrimp” cuppa noodles 🙂 … I have 1 each morning 🙂 Also on the Empire Builder, cabins have a drinking water spigot and small disposable cups that were very handy. So its less yucky to have to get water for the kettle than from u know where.

23 Apr: We spend all day on the train passing thru flat farming lands as far as the eyes can see, stopping at little towns with train stops where some passengers get on/off or just a cig break. I am happy that we had AT&T network connection most everywhere so I kept up with my little people games on my iPad 🙂

Was difficult to get a good picture in a moving train.

Altho the seats are not as comfortable as beds, it seems we slept quite well and frequently doze off during the day too. I think we are definitely getting 8hrs each day… if not 10 🙂 . The train does rock a fair bit, making it hard to write a diary or draw a house plan, but I manage to do a little work on the computer while at the lounge car. Reading is really quite popular…socializing otherwise, only few people are playing phone games.

Morning in the Cascades.

By 1700hrs, the terrain changed from rolling farming plains interlaced with lakes and rivers to one that is woody and rocky. Seeing the Cascades in the distance with the setting sun in the back is a treat.

Getting a 1800hrs dinner car reservation for us, having a great steak (for me) and salad (for Doug), as we enter the Cascades was the highlight of this ride. Our experience was only slightly marred by the mother and kid that we shared our table with, and other diners near us who ruined my expectation that dining passengers are well heeled high society types…. I guess not on this trip… Well, I was thankful that most diners ate their small meals and left quickly, leaving us (the last 2) to eat up our expensive bigger meal in peace.

Kings Street station in downtown Seattle.

24th April 0700hrs: By now, we have changed time zone for the 2nd time. Morning in the Cascades was beautiful and we are in good spirits nearing the end of our long journey. I mean we go on long journeys all the time, but we are always in the driver seat and its just us in Calliste, or us just in Fordie as we drove east last fall. Sure, we cant wait to step off the train and be in control of our immediate environment again.

My daisies! Planted last summer, survived winter without me.

I am more of the veteran passenger than Doug as I have had been on cruising, flying and train riding vacations in so many countries from childhood…. so I did learn to make the most out of each riding experience. In many ways those things that I pick up makes my next journey more comfortable and interesting, mostly with regard to timing when to do what kind of things when bound in a cabin with other people 🙂

1000hrs: We arrived almost an hour ahead of schedule, in downtown Seattle. Got our checked in bags, they arrived unscathed 🙂 . Leaving Doug to watch our bags at the station, I walked 1 mile, guided by my trusty phone and Google, to Budget car rental.

Got the car that I prepaid for and got Doug and our bags before noon. Back on our home run route, stopped at Walmart to restock the cabin. We are home by 4pm, unloaded the car, and with still a good amount of daylight and energy left, we walked the grounds and smell the flowers 🙂 . Oh cabin, we’re home!



65hrs train ride (part 1)

Yup we must be going somewhere 🙂 … slowly

Just us and few others.

Its spring, time to head back to Port Townsend to check on my cabin… and to get summer projects rolling for Doug. Yeah sure we could choose to fly, but with all that luggage that Doug is bringing, taking the train is cheaper and less security hassles. Plus we get to see all that scenery and feel touristy for a change.

Flying feels rushed… there is a very business feel to it…

Arriving at Chicago. So many tracks.

Where taking the slow train seems kinda fun and relaxing to me …. maybe its the novelty, maybe its the wide seats and huge leg room and less than 25% ridership vs 100% on most flights…

Remember seeing this place on the big screen?

21 Apr 1800hrs: A great friend came to transfer us from our apartment in Malta to Schenectady. Car ride 40 mins. Its nice that there is no check in 2hrs early requirement :)… so in fact we were there way too early … yeah, but we didn’t want to be held up by rush hour traffic and miss the train, so it worked out.

Looks that maintenance is a daily chore around here

Me! At Union Station, Chicago, IL.

21 Apr 1930hrs: We start off with #49 Lake Shore Limited from Schenectady, NY bound Chicago, IL. 15hrs overnight train ride, not much to see, but we are just excited to be on our way home. Our mood was light and happy as we settle down into our seats and ate the dinner that we prepared back in the apartment. We brought a travel kettle and instant hot beverage packs so we could have a steaming hot beverage anytime and right at our seat … not to mention we save $2 for each cuppa that we don’t buy from the lounge car :). Yes, we got the water on board… from the bathroom…. yikes? Yep, that’s how I felt about it, but Doug was unfazed.

This almost could be Singapore River.

After hours of eating and talking, we laid our seats fully back and pulled out the foot rest to seat height. To be stuck for such a long journey in a seat, the chair must be a lot more comfy than a plane, otherwise who would put up with it?

I like that globe at the foot of that tower. Wonder what is the significance.

Then I notice the more veteran train riders brought their large swooshy pillows. The real thing, not the travel type. That and a travel fleece blanket made so much sense. I guess on our next trip, we’ll have a few tricks of our own…. nevertheless, I slept most of the night away and maybe was just a little sore in the morning. Doug did pretty well too.

River taxi going by.

Thru the night, the train made quite a few stops. Passengers came and went. Nobody, we learned, was going our distance …. 🙂

Chinese not open.

22 Apr 1015hrs: Arrived at Chicago on schedule. Our next train is 4 hours away…. its so nice to have unlimited mobile data and not lose network throughout this trip, maybe we did but I wasn’t constantly needing data, anyway pre arrival, I google mapped Chicago Union Station surroundings, wondering where can I go to get us some good bites for the next longer leg. Only then did I realize that the station is right downtown in Chicago! How convenient. Unlike airports which is always bus rides away.

Japanese not opened too!

Doug prefers to sit with the bags in the lounge while I go check out the city. We both like this arrangement 🙂 … except that he warns me about the gangs that are everywhere in Chicago, especially in Chinatown … well we just have to trust my guardian angel when I am out there walking myself 🙂

Robinsons it is!

So there I went, checking out the historic Union Station, then walking towards the riverfront, crossing the little bridge into downtown Chicago. Its a Saturday, not many people around… tall building line the river… a river taxi goes by… felt just like Singapore on a Saturday.

Surprisingly real and tasty food.

Oh NO! Just like Singapore, food places that I was so looking forward too were not opened, because its a weekend!

Drats, just have to get whats in Union Station. Well, there is a food court with the usual suspects… then I saw this Mom n Pop shoppe that I just must try because its not everywhere and everyday that I see honest real people behind the counter. And for $8 it was honest real food. Simple and yet very tasty!

1 hour walk, 1 hour to eat, 1 hour to find the boarding platform to #7 the Empire Builder. Time pass quickly, but it was enough time for me in Chicago on a Saturday…


Last snow storm for the year?

Hello beautiful.

Just when we start to get 65’F weather and I was thinking the worst is over… I returned Fordie to the leasing co and got ourselves a cute little VW Golf …. we get slammed again. 12 – 18″ of snow fell and was blown around by huge winds that is prevalent this time of year. Meaning that snow that would normally settle on roof top are blown around and settles on ground finally, making it 18″ at least everywhere.

Good looking butt.

Only days before the storm, was a clear sunny weekend when I had all that energy to cut out a full suit of “decal armor” for the little redsy. A tad too much contrast, IMO… I didn’t have a good supply of light grey, so I used white against my better judgement.

The works!

It was a state of emergency and we are advised to not go anywhere unless it was in a snow plow or emergency response vehicle. Look, less traffic, less accidents, less need for emergency responders and snow plows work more effectively. So yes we are not going anywhere in Fordie in these conditions, and much less in this lightweight little scoot of a car…. we haven’t settle on a name for this little reddy… nothing we think of seems to suit him/her… yes, we are not sure about that too…

Yikes, snow banks taller than me.

Since the forecast sounded really bad, the kind of storm that gobbles up little cars… I move our new little red car into the garage, something I vow to never do after I broke the back window of the Fordie doing so 3 months back. This time, I had help from Doug… phew… Only inches to spare in the front and back.

Banks of snow everywhere in the hood.

Ok, we out lasted the 36 hours storm. We were snug, cozy, warm, well fed from foods that we stacked in the fridgy, little reddy is in a heated garage, what more comfort can we ask for 🙂 . No wonder people in affluent societies get fat in winter…

And look! Right in front of the garage door is where the plows deposited the snow from the cul de sac… Little redsy would have been buried in 18″ of snow and then crushed by 8′ snow bank. Lucky girl (I guess that’s pretty much decided after all that flowers eh?), and lucky us, we don’t have to dig her out … phew.


Too much snow

Beginning of winter. Light covering of snow.

Just settling down into our now furnished and comfy apartment… and it began to snow. It was fun at 1st, playing in the slowly falling drizzle in about 30’F…

Star cracks on frozen pond.

Took a walk through the private reserve on Steeplechase property. Nice little park with benches, streams and pond.

Notice these star shaped cracky patterns on the frozen pond and wondered about them. We deduce that some residents came walking and threw pebbles on the water just as it was a thin freeze. Now even the cracks are frozen over solid. I threw pebbles and they just skid over the ice. Too late to make my own star.

Nice solid bridge.

Cross over on that very solid timber bridge to St Ledgers Woods, a adjacent private community that shares this private reserve. Steeplechase is in the background in this picture, somewhere in that cluster is our rental.

Clear day after snow storm.

Weeks later, light flaky snow became more like the blizzard variety. Lots of wind, driving snow and wind chill … less fun, but still in the low 30s… Still manage to drive Fordie to Lowes and bought some 2x4s, but look at the snow piles.

Every property must have and run their snow plows so that the residents can go to work/shopping/emergency… and every mall must do the same so that customers can get there. And the city plowers clears the major roads constantly. Seems like a pretty fine tuned operation. We decided to call this snow management 🙂 … Interesting to watch all that work to make it possible for people to continue with daily living despite weather…

I build this snow man village.

Then it stopped snowing and sun was coming thru in the shorter daylight hours…. The irony is clear sunny days are also the coldest days… typically less than 10’F. Scarves and mittens are needed to walk 1/2 mile from the parked car to the office building.

Me and my creations.

Well, get over it! And enjoy our time here in upstate NY while it last…. I think that to myself, hoping that it will make me feel better …  So lets put on more layers and go play in the snow 🙂 …

Indulge and built a whole snowman village… that was fun.

Yup, we definitedly have no plans to make this one of our basecamps.


Sailing 2015: Port Townsend(WA, US) -> Costes Island (BC, Canada)

Sailing 2013: Singapore -> Okinawa -> Kobe

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