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 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.  

A Stop in Venice

      I trained up in Ferrara and got off in Venice.  If you look way back in time, you can see my first trip here in July 2011.  That time I saw this tree growing out of a wall.

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    This time I thought I would look for some new sights.  I wandered down the narrow alleys.  I crossed a few bridges and I found this.

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I may need to improve my spontaneous wander skills.

     Honest, we were just walking down the street and I came across it…again.  It doesn’t seem to grow much but there were a lot of years in between these shots.

I decided to check out a new neighborhood but the big streets were flooded so I had to take a boat.

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Wet Street

                        Oh yeah!! Venice!!  That’s the way it is here.  Lots of water, no cars. 

     First stop, Murano.  A small island in the lagoon.  It’s easy to take the waterbus from Venice and arrive and a new group of islands connected by bridges.

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Murano Blvd.

Murano is best known for its glass.  And this hottie.  A real cutie but she looks a little fragile.

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Metropolis in Glass

This place has beautiful and delicate public art.  Where else can you find a garden like this?

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Or this thing.  I think I saw this wig on kid at a punk show in Berkeley.

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Blue Fizzy Blowout

                                    Or maybe it was a bottle of blue Gatorade exploding.

          Next it was time to hop back on the boat and head to Burano, another group of islands.

The buildings are very colorful and they are best known for their lace shops lining the main street.

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This lady had a big wad of thread.  She tied some knots and came up with a lace thing to stick under your Grandmother’s lamp.

The amount of work going into these lace items was amazing.  A true art form.

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I thought about buying some glass in Murano or some lace in Burano but ended up with this instead.

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The Good Stuff

                                        Gelato in a waffle cone.  Life gets no better. 

I took the waterbus back to Venice and bummed a ride in this smaller boat to look around the city.

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                                           Marco gave me a great tour of the waterways.

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                                        He took me by the Venice Casino.

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                     And I waved at this guy who seemed to be waving his fist at me.

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Fist Pumpin Lion

                                                       I don’t know what his problem is.

Marco took me down some side streets.  A quick right here, followed by a left, and down the narrow shortcut.

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Dark Alley

 

And stopping at a little Trattoria.  I felt like a real king…or maybe a Doge sitting on the seat all by myself.

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King of the Canal

 

                                                  Marco even let me handle the oar.

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My gondola trip was over.  Time for some food.  Besides, these people jumped in the boat and I didn’t want to share.

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I’m afraid my trip to Italy is at an end.  I left some sights unseen on purpose so that now I must return.  I have my medal from the Vatican to remember the trip and insure my safe return.

 

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Vatican Medal

 

     Venice has long been a place that I dreamed of someday, maybe someday, visiting.  I never thought it possible to actually go there, it seemed to be a place that only existed in books or TV travel shows.  Now, I not only find it possible to go there, I find it is possible to go there twice.  The people are way too nice for the number of tourists they encounter.  Marco the gondolier was very accommodating for the little yellow plastic guy and let us all pile down to one end of the boat so we could get pictures of him on the seat.  Posing with Bubba was just icing on the cake. 

     All through Italy we met wonderful friendly people.  From Marco in Venice to the Priests at the Vatican, to the guide in Pompeii, everyone was willing to spend a quality moment with Bubba.

              The impossible trips are actually possible.  All you need to do is take the first step.