Day 21, 22 Singapore

                    Day 21 and day 22 in Bubba’s trip to go “East” and our trip to accompany him.

Heading east from Dubai would take me somewhere like the Himalayas, China, North Korea.  Maybe I should veer southeast instead.  I’ve heard that crossing the equator causes your hair to fall out so maybe I will stop just shy of the big red line on the map.

            Singapore is 80 or so miles north of the equator so I should be safe.  We stayed in the Chinese quarter at this hotel that once was a Chinese temple.

          They have a Bubba sized model of what the area looked like back in the day.  Our place is the short one in the middle that still looks pretty much the same.   

          Up in our room, we found some goodies to commemorate the Mid-Autumn festival.  I’m always ready to munch sweets and check out the view of the market from my room.

            Singapore is an almost mystical blend of the past and the up-to-the-minute present.  A wander around the neighborhood took us back to the historic side of this part of the city.  We came across this temple, still in use.  This place has some beautiful carvings and is a sacred place. 

          So you know the bit over your front door?  No one really looks there; they are ringing the bell.  In this place, every surface is filled with carvings with deep religious meanings.  This is the Thian Hock Keng Temple or Palace of Heavenly Happiness first built around 1821. 

            Inside there are places devoted to the different gods.  Each have a deep meaning and each have their own offerings left behind by devotees.  This being Singapore, one of the friendliest places I’ve ever visited, a man standing near heard us admiring the work and explained some of the things we were seeing.  He was a professor at the local university who would explain things to tourists during his visits.

                                  What is that offering I see at the foot of the God with the big tongue?

                                                        It is indeed a can of Guinness! 

These two are Generals Fan and Xie, the guardians of hell, also known as the Black and White Guards of Impermanence.  One can imagine the significance of the can O’ Guinness. 

It is a little hot and damp today.  Illegal forest clearing in Indonesia contributes smoke to the mix.  It is downright melty out here.

                           It is time for something to cool my soul.  I’ll ask this guy for a ride.

“You know where a guy could get a cool drink in a classy place that represents Singapore’s past?”

                    This is, of course, a not so cleverly done set up for the next bunch of pictures.

                                                   Take me to Raffles Hotel! 

            The hotel’s roots go back to the 1830’s and it was eventually named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore.  It is a classic colonial British building.  I could sip tea on the veranda.

            Nah! That isn’t my style.  I’ll head to Harry’s bar.  This is the place where the Singapore Sling was invented…and they have free peanuts.

Warm day, fans overhead gently moving the hot, moist air, and a nice tropical cocktail.  I can’t help overhearing someone speak of a tiger hunt and I think he actually said the words, “Dash it all!” and “My word!”  It is a dozy kind of day.

            You must forgive Bubba in letting his imagination roam a bit.  This is a modern bar with all the trappings from the past so it is easy to send your mind back 100 years or so.

            Time to go back to the room for a nap.  Let’s see if I can find it.  It had red shutters and looked out over the shopping arcade.

                     Yeah, one of those.  Tomorrow I’ll check out the modern version of the city.

Back to Brussels–Day 18

In the quest to always move east, we took a week out to roll around Belgium.  We are now back in Brussels for a last look before boarding a plane again.

                                                                     Who’s this guy??

                                He is a statue.  He is dressed up in a uniform.  He is a fountain and he is….!!

AHHHHH!!  Don’t get wet.  I found out this is Manneken Pis.  A rather famous fountain to commemorate…there are several stories.  He has been standing there doing his bit since 1618 so his origins are faded.  The one I like best is the small boy who found a way to extinguish the fuse of a bomb and save the city.  This guy is famous.  He has a better wardrobe than most of us and his outfit is changed often.  There is even a special museum dedicated to his wardrobe and, of course, we visited. 

                                   Only some of his outfits are on display.  The rest are packed in drawers.

                                                     Do you like Elvis?  Well, Elvis is in the house.

            This is taken very seriously as he has been there for close to 500 years.  It is considered an honor for him to wear a costume and the submission process is quite complicated.  He has been given honors by several countries.

            He is a great hero among us short inanimate people. Who else can attract a crowd with umbrellas to watch him go about his 500-year business. 

                         Enough of this culture stuff.  Time to find an even more serious place to escape the rain.

            Kind of says it all.  Nothing better on a wet day than a tavern with many taps and an underground room.                                                                                           What could go wrong? 

            A couple of pints later and I’m ready to go back out and see the sights.  We stopped at a shopping arcade.

 

 

                                            Rick bought a snappy hat that looks like his other snappy hats.

            We then stopped by the Cathedral des Saints Michael et Gudule.  I think the guard may have detected the previous pints as he pointed the way out.  Or at least one way out.

                                                 Must be time to board the first plane out to the east.

                                                     I wonder where this place may be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 17 Waterloo

Bubba is on day 17 of his quest to go somewhere east.  Heading back from the Ypres area toward Brussels, we passed near the battlefield at Waterloo.

On June 18, 1815 The forces of France led by Napoleon Bonaparte met the European forces aligned against him led by Wellington and Blucher near the hamlet of Waterloo in Belgium.  We could not pass this area by without a stop.

            Battlefields generally look like an empty field and you have to use your imagination to reconstruct things.  Waterloo is a little different.  In spite of being 200 years ago, there are still some relics and, over the centuries, new sites have been laid out.  A little Bubba sized person like me has problems seeing such a vast area but I’m told there is a platform where I can get a better overall view.  It was easy to find, up by the big lion.

Waaaay Up

How do I get up there? Oh look, a staircase. Just a few steps to go.

But once you get to the top, you get a great overall view of the area with a chart showing the battlefield highlights.

The mound was put in about ten years after the battle, so things were still pretty fresh. Left on the site are a farm that figured prominently, another farmhouse where Napoleon spent the night prior to the battle. There is also a Panorama housed in a round building put in about 100 years ago and a great museum. They chose to build the museum mostly underground so as to not interfere with the views.

                We stopped off at the museum and there was the man himself. Kicked back in a chair checking the polish on his boots.

          I like the cut of those uniforms. The beats my shirt any day and they get some pretty cool hats instead of this peg thing on my head.

Hey guys!! Do you have a place for me? I’m looking for a laid back position, with maybe some built in nap time.

             It must be time to leave now. I’ll go look at the farmhouse where the Emperor spent the night prior to the big battle.
His bed and desk are still there.

He must have left in a hurry. He didn’t make the bed. One more stop to pay homage at the spot that was the last stand on Napoleon’s Old Guard.

Back to Brussels for a brief stop before boarding a plane and heading east again.
Travel tip: The world is so rich in history. With a little research, you can find some bit of history, a notable place, a tiny museum, near to anywhere you happen to be standing. Give yourself some time to hunt out these places so you can visit and enhance your trip that much more.

Day 13 Or so Bruges, Belgium

Bubba started from Sacramento California 13 days ago.  He vowed to go east as far as he could.  He is now going west in order to go east again.  It made sense at the time.

I parked the rental car in the square next to the truck.  It won’t stand out.  Nobody will figure out I’m an American.  Just a couple of Belgian cars, right?

I wish this was the rental!

We were welcomed by this stylish, sinister gent and his two ladies.  The guy on the far right seems to have his doubts about this group.

Monsieur Sinister and his ladies seem to be watching me.  Maybe not.  I’m sure they are just local citizens out for a stroll.

Bruges is another city where the old buts up against the really old.

  The art and architecture blend into a space where you walk around with your head back and your mouth open.

I feel like someone unusual is watching me.   Wait, no, nobody unusual here.

I found this guy and shook his hand.  He looked like a good guide I asked if he would be my friend and he said it looked like the beginnings of a beautiful friendship.

He said his name was Rick Blaine and he had a little café in Casablanca.  He showed me some of the old and new and new old buildings.  Plenty of light, plenty of windows.

Whoa! Sometimes you shouldn’t look in the windows.  Are we back in Amsterdam??

Bruges has its own set of canals that give you a good view of some it the city’s finest buildings.

I still have that feeling of being followed.   Are peacocks waterfowl?

I mentioned the movie “Monuments Men” in the last post.  Bruges too has a work of art that was recovered by those WWII heroes.  The Madonna of Bruges by Michelangelo.

No joking to do here.  This is a work of art that truly leaves you standing still in front of it with no words to utter.   Its mere presence compels you to walk quietly and with reverence.

Straying into too much culture again.  I finally found a museum I like, The Bruges Beer Museum.  And I have a token!!

Now this is the stuff.  The Beer Museum gives you an iPad to guide you through and at the end you exchange it for three drink tokens or six if your companion doesn’t drink.

Properly beered up with for real Belgian Ale, it is time to put my earlier paranoia away about strangely garbed people following me away and get back to the hotel.

I sense a move to the east would be in order.

 

 

Day 11, 12 Belgium

My first for real Belgian waffle!!!

 In Amsterdam, I hopped on a train and headed to Brussels, Belgium.   Now I know I said I would always head east but I have to move a little bit west to go east.  The road takes you where the road wants you to go.

The train station in Brussels in in the basement of a building that houses the airport and the rental car places.  I could have hopped another train into the city center or points west but I talked Rick and Spider into getting a car instead.

The first stop in our quest to go west in order to go east was Bruges.  We parked the car and quickly forgot where we put it but that would be a problem for later.   Bruges became a place-to-come-back-to right from the start.   Knowing that our beds for the night still lay west of us, we were unable to fully explore this city.

In the few hours we had to spare, we saw a rich array of medieval buildings.

The churches have been around for a couple of years or centuries and have picked up a few monument and statues.

Sometimes I can’t tell if they belong together.  Is that supposed to look like that?

  A can’t miss is the Ghent Altarpiece.  Twelve fifteenth century panels painted by the brothers van Eyck.  It has a rich history of its own.  Looted by Nazis in WWII, the panels were found in a salt mine by the famous Monuments Men and were featured in the movie of the same name.  Sorry, no photos.   Bubba was properly humbled by the masterpieces.

 We found this place.   Maybe we could get a bite to eat here.

You can pick up a ham sandwich here, if you can reach the ham.   Even the butcher shop is an olde worlde building.

The medieval architecture here is amazing.  If it wasn’t for the banana on the bike, you wouldn’t know what century you were in.

This city is on the come back to list.   But now I must move on…  If we can find the car.

Yeah, well, we did do a little searching before we found it.  The problem occurs when you come to a place like this, you exit the car park, looking at all the buildings and not where you happen to be at that time.  

Day 9, 10 Amsterdam

Here we go, back in a plane and heading east once again.  I got on the plane, I got off the plane and I am now at my hotel.  The streets here are not paved with gold, they are paved with water.  I’m in Amsterdam.

 

Another beautiful city with a look of its own.  For most people, Amsterdam is a bike riding town.  For a Bubba sized bike, it would take some time to get around.  Amsterdam is also a great walking town. Moving too fast would mean missing the incredible views of all the unique Dutch architecture.

The people here are extremely tolerant and laid back.  To show wealth is seen as a sin by some while sins here come with a different definition.  Some of the houses here have funny red lights out in front.  I’m not sure what that means.

It is also a city of culture. The Rijksmuseum can be a several day distraction.  Many of “those paintings you only see in books” are located here.

   The Night Watch by Rembrandt is here.

 

And this painting by Vermeer.

That is one cute Amsterdamian girl!

Rick liked the library.

WOW! I found the girl pouring the milk.  How do you say, “Wanna party like a Dutch girl?”

Or how do you say, “Just kidding Millie my dear.”

After the museum, we went to a world famous sporting event.  “The World Cup!”  Well, sort of.

Amsterdam is one of those places where it is hard to take a bad picture.  It is a supermodel of European cities; it always photographs well.

As much as I like Amsterdam, I’m on a semi strict time schedule.  I must head east once more.

I’m tired of planes so the next step will be by train to…

Day 7, 8 More Time In Iceland

            Yesterday was spent in Reykjavik so, today, I’ll head out into the countryside.  There is a whole lot of beautiful nothing out here punctuated by occasional glaciers and geysers.

     This is a new land.  The result of volcanic activity in relatively recent times means there is very thin soil, not a lot of trees but lots of rocks.  It is said that if you spend the night in the lava flows, the trolls will come out to get you.  I saw them in Reykjavik and I think Rick has been converted.   

Glaciers feed rivers that create some waterfalls of gigantic proportions.  This one is Gullfoss, It is actually two waterfalls one on top of the other and set at about 90 degrees. 

A little too tall, too loud, and too deep for me.  This is more my size but is still impressive.

     Because this place is so new, there is a lot of volcanic activity around.  You can take a walk and notice that the ground seems to be smoking.

There is a local saying, “If this grounds a smokin’ don’t go a pokin’” meaning if you poke at the ground, you may get a surprise.

Uh, no Bubba.  That’s a geyser.  That’s what their job is.  There is no corny smokin’/pokin’ saying.

With all this hot water around, it gets used to provide power for the country.  Over a quarter of the electricity and almost 90% of the heating and hot water, comes out of the ground.

Along with that, they have some great hot spring bathing areas.  This is the Blue Lagoon, a product of the power plant in the background.

I got my armband and joined in.

Hey Look!  It’s Millie!  I can lounge hot spring side with her.

I could sit here all night. 

            Iceland has been a real treat.  It is another Bubba sized country but it is time again to head east.  Where next?