Saturday, 14 January 2012

Baby friendly city: Singapore

Singapore, right after Xmas

We had a three-night stop-over in Singapore on our way to New Zealand from Istanbul. It is a clean, nice, baby- and pram-friendly city. We really enjoyed Singapore with our baby.
Some (strange) facts I observed about Singapore:

  • I think Singapore is the best Asian city to go to when you need to have a stop-over on the way to New Zealand, particularly if you are travelling with a 13 month-old baby. The flight time from Istanbul to Singapore and from Singapore to Auckland was less than 18.5 hours.
  • Singapore Airport is huge! and quite cool! It is one of the must-see places in Singapore :)
  • They welcome tourists at the Immigration Control very hospitably. They offered us candies at the Passport Control Point when we arrived and before we left. They are very friendly. 
  • Singapore has five languages and English is the main language of education or let's say most common language. But apparently it is a Singaporey English. I have a suspicion that when they say 'oh it is very far', actually they mean it is very nearby! Otherwise, no way could it have happened to me twice in three days! 
  • While travelling in Singapore, many times I asked myself: "If this is modern architecture, what is it in Turkey or in Europe?" Singapore is a young and beautifully and intelligently architectured city. What kind of a fantasy can make you build three skyscrapers and connect them with a boat at the top so that you can have a city-view that you can watch, while swimming [see the building in the background of the photo above]! 
  • National Museum of Singapore
  • Finding souvenirs in Singapore is very tricky. It looks like shopping is a big deal in Singapore but you really need to be well-off to be comfortable with your spending depending on where you shop. Prices at the shopping malls are quite pricey. I went into a kids clothing shop, and with 50 % discount, a children's top was 100 Singapore dollars. You can try Bugis Street market but even though the prices may be attractive, the quality of products is really low. And when you want to buy souvenirs, everything looks like 'made in China'. After visiting Bugis Street, we went to a Buddhist and Hindu temple and afterwards we found our way to the National Museum of Singapore. By the time we arrived there, it was 6pm. At the entrance, it said 'entrance free' and the museum is open until 8pm. We said 'jolly good' and had a look at the museum. If you want to find a nice souvenir, I recommend the Museum Shop. Some of the galleries were closed but we could visit one of them. Interestingly, when we went back to the Museum the next day, they said that we needed to pay to see the galleries (!)
Tips if you are travelling with a baby
  • It is a clean and nice city. I found it very easy to travel with a baby in Singapore. Highly recommended.
  • You need to fold your pram when you get on a bus [it needs to stay folded throughout your journey].
  • It is easy to find ready meals in jars for your baby (a small jar [organic] for around 2 Singapore dollars) Naturally my baby doesn't like eating spicy foods; breastfeeding, bananas, porridge and eggs saved my life! Easy to feed!
  • Singapore is a warm and humid city. I normally don't use sun block on my baby's skin. Instead I try not to take her outside under hot sun between 10am and 5pm and make sure that she wears long-sleeves and leggings (to protect her from sun). But because we only had 3 days in Singapore and we were exclusively tourists, I had to give up on my rules for three days. Make sure you have some sun block for your baby.
  • Singapore can be very rainy. Apparently the worst month to go there is December and we were there just before the New Year. It was not too hot, but definitely it rained and it was humid. Even if you don't like using umbrellas, make sure that you carry your baby's pram's rain cover.
  • Most importantly, our baby did not need any extra vaccination to go to Singapore.
Notes on food
  • There are different yummy cuisines in Singapore but the Malaysian cuisine is the cheapest to try. My husband had a vegetarian dish for only 2 dollars! 
  • Food is cheap depending on where you buy it. Our friends, who live in Singapore, do not even cook at home, because it is really cheap. You can eat a nice bowl of noodles for only 4 Singapore dollars.
  • Finding vegetarian food is easy but in big shopping malls it can be difficult (don't know why!) What I know is we spent more than 2 hours looking for vegetarian food in shopping centres, and couldn't find any. We ended up going to a market (7 eleven) and bought a cheese-pastry thingy.    
  • Fresh juices,  such as coconut, are great to try! You drink your coconut juice from the fruit shell itself and then you can scrape its flesh with a spoon and eat it. How cool is that!
Money matters
  • Don't worry about the rates at the exchange offices at the airport, they offer pretty much what they offer at the city centre (up to 1 cent in the dollar max).
  • Before going there, everyone said that credit cards are widely accepted, but I recommend you not to rely on credit cards. For instance, they say taxis accept credit cards. Yes they accept credit cards, but they charge you  10 % extra for that!
  • Keep in mind that if you book a taxi in advance, you need to pay more than the usual price. Don't do like we did, spare some extra money before you leave. Luckily we had great friends there to lend us some money ;)
  • Supermarkets at the city centre are more expensive than the ones in suburbian areas. And being tourists, it is not that easy to locate supermarkets. 
One last suggestion: If you have time, visiting the Spice Garden in Canning Park, next to the Museum, is a very good experience. You can show your child where spices - such as cardamom, clove, ginger etc. - come from. 

Friday, 19 November 2010

~Su~ Life~ Su~

I normally never liked drinking water. Many of my relatives from my father's side don't like drinking water either and they suffer from kidney problems. After I got pregnant, I started drinking water more and more.. And there came a moment of realisation that water is LIFE! My baby needs water to exist so I drink lots of water.

In Geography lessons, teachers told us that 2/3 of the world consists of water. In Biology lessons, teachers told us that 2/3 of our bodies are made up of water. So, I thought that would be a great topic for a travel blog :) Wherever you travel, water is one of the most crucial needs. In some countries you can just turn the tap on and drink water from the tap. In some countries, tap water is even not good for brushing your teeth :(

Among all countries I have been to, Sweden has the best drinkable tap water. You just turn the tap on and you have water as if from the source of a spring. It's refreshing and nice. The least drinkable (!) tap water I had was in Brussels. The quality of the water is so horrible that in supermarkets / cornershops they sell water syrups. What's water syrup? It's basically concentrated aroma and sugar that you add into your water glass so that you don't hate the water you're drinking from the tap. While I lived in Brussels, I had two bottles of water syrup: strawberry and mint. I couldn't drink either of them and when my husband tried to finish them (in order not to waste them) he commented: “I always wanted to try drinking mouth wash. If I feel like drinking mouth wash, I drink my water with the mint syrup. If I want to drink my water with coughing syrup sensation, I try the strawberry syrup” :) Well, I tried Brussels tap water for a week and after I kept on having diarreahea for a week, I started buying bottled water from Delhaize supermarkets.

In Turkey, noone drinks water from taps (at least in the western part of Turkey). It's mainly because the pipes in Turkey are old and not clean. But Turks have a good system for bottled water. When I used to live in the UK, we had to go to supermarkets and carry bottles of water from the supermarkets but in Turkey there’re lots of bottled water companies almost in every corner. You just call them, or if it’s very nearby you go to the shop and order your water. In 5 minutes or so, a guy brings 20 litres of water to your door for only 1 or 2 quid. It’s also environmentally friendly because you don’t waste water bottles, each time the water guy comes, he takes the previous one back and sends it to the factory to be cleaned and filled again with water. I guess this is partially environmentally friendly. Many people drink tap water in the UK, but if you ask me, it tastes horrible and it makes me really sick :(

Water and hair: The best water for washing my hair was in the UK. It was miraculous! My hair always had a great volume and it didn’t get fuzzy. But my experience in Turkey and South Korea was horrible. In Korea (well at least in Seoul), as far as I know, they just recycle water. So the water you use was possibly used by someone else before you. And the urban myth for this is Korean water increases the amount of hair you have!!! Particularly in Istanbul the water quality is very poor. Possibly water quality is better in Anatolia compared to Istanbul. Well, I have no idea about what they add into the water of a city of 16 million people.

Another thing about water is rain!!! I don’t know if it is another urban myth or not but what I heard was you should avoid rain touching skin/ face in Korea and England. The wind coming from China to Korea and the wind coming from France to England carry industrial particles that can be harmful for people who are exposed to the rain water...

In New Zealand, they use rain water as their drinking water (except in cities). Everyone has a water tank and they compile water in it throughout the year. My husband told me when he was a kid, he had to go to dentist to have fluoride treatment because they didn’t have any fluoride in the water that they used daily. Well, who would guess that there is an advantage of using city water!

Extra useless information: In Korean, every week day is attributed to an element. So the word for Wednesday is Su-yoil which mean water day. Interestingly, the word "su" (water) comes from Chinese and in Turkish su means water as well. I guess this word shows it well that in modern Turkish we still use the words that Turks brought with them from the Central Asia more than a thousand years ago.

Sunday, 31 January 2010


I love cafe culture. I love small un-franchised cafes. I love personal relations in cafes: with the waiter/waitress, with the cashier, with the owner, with the friend that I go to the cafe with. I love meeting at a cafe. One of the best things with Istanbul is, along with so many other things, when you don’t know what to do, you just go to Istiklal Caddesi, look around, feel your instincts, go to a cul de sac, find an apartment block on that cul de sac, go to the 5th floor of that apartment block and discover two cafes facing Bosphorus with its glorious view with lovely proper Turkish tea. There are as many cafes in Istanbul as there are sea seagulls in Bosphorus and discovering cafes is an addiction that you’ll enjoy more and more everyday.. and you collect memories as you discover each cafe: one with the moment that you broke up with your boyfriend, one in which you listened to your friend’s news (she got engaged with a man she knows only for a short time), one in which you studied for your final exams in your 3rd year at the university, one in which you had deep philosophical conversations, one in which you played the guitar and everyone sang together, one in which you learned how to play backgammon...
I love cafes... I love cosiness, the comfort that you feel at cafes...
Well, finding cafes in the UK is as hard as seeing seagulls in Birmingham city centre. If there are any, they are franchised: the same decor, the same taste. Nothing is exciting to discover. I went to Northfield in Birmingham today. There was a cafe, but actually it was more of a diner than a cafe. I really liked the atmosphere there. There was a sign on the wall:

I ordered a baguette with a can of fizzy drink+crisps for only £1.99 and then maybe waited for 5 minutes waiting for the food. Then, the lady served the baguette with a large plate of chips and then we said we didn’t order any chips, she said it took such a long time for her to serve the food that she wanted to compensate for it. And then brought another can of fizzy drink again saying it took a long time for her to serve. Moreover? The baguette had more tuna than any baguette that I’ve ever seen. Customers seemed to be locals and friendly... It’s such a nice feeling to find nice places to eat... The Clock Cafe (yes it has many big clocks in it) is 1 minute to the Northfield Pool and Fitness Centre. By the way, gym and pool centres in Birmingham are free to all who are residents in Birmingham until 2011 (I guess).

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Birmingham Palace

We went to Birmingham Palace three weeks ago. No, you didn’t hear me wrong: Birmingham Palace! We have a palace in Birmingham. Actually five years ago, when I was chatting on MSN and told my Turkish friend, who was living in China then, that I would go to Birmingham to study, he said ‘oh send me a photo from Birmingham Palace!’ and I said ‘Birmingham Palace? There isn’t such a thing! There’s Buckingham Palace!’ and he said he found it on google search and took a photo of his desktop and sent that photo to me: and yes on google search there was Birmingham Palace, but it was actually Buckingham Palace! I think a Chinese guy remembered the name wrong and put it on his blog as ‘Birmingham Palace’ :) but hold on! I’ve been to Birmingham Palace! Well, it’s not called ‘Birmingham Palace’, it’s called ‘Aston Hall’ but if there is any place to be called Birmingham Palace, it should be Aston Hall. It’s only open only from mid July till the end of October. You can have more information on If you like cavernous dreary old mansions from bygone years where the ghosts of rich people complain in whispers about the poor taste of the peacock meat and the cold draught coming from window in the orange room (actually it’s a bedroom with a ceiling full of orange tree carvings; this is where it takes its name from), then you might like it ;)

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Drink of Happiness

Hot chocolate!

If I put on weight during my studies in Korea, there were two reasons for this!
And the first one was: Hot chocolate!
God, I loved the hot chocolate that I bought in Seoul National University (If I remember it right, from the café under the Business school) and Yonsei University (the café in Global Lounge). Lovely hot chocolate made with real dairy cream and topped with either chocolate sauce or pistachio nuts.. yummmmm!!! And I used to pay only 1000 or 1200 won!

The best served hot chocolate, I drank in Brussels. I went to a café in Ixelles (15 mins from the European Parliament) and of course I ordered hot chocolate and the waiter brought a tray with a cup with hot milk in, a small porcelain spoon like shovel (full of chocolate chips) and a biscuit!! So I poured the chocolate chips into my hot milk and they melted! And became yummy hot chocolate! I was really impressed.

And in Russell, NZ there is a small ice-cream & drinks shop at which my family is addicted to drinking hot chocolates (specially the hot chocolate named ‘Nutty Irishman’!!!) and they are yummm too! Generally each cup of hot chocolate is 5 NZ$ (so quite expensive compared to the ones in Seoul but for that gorgeous view I think it’s worth it!) Also, in NZ I discovered something between hot chocolate and energy drink (which turns out to be quite famous in Asia as well): MILO ! It was harder to find it in the UK last year, but this year I can find it in most of the major supermarkets. You add two spoons of milo and milk and hot water, and preferably a teaspoon of sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

How about hot chocolates in the UK? Well, to tell the truth in this capitalist, everything-franchised economical system, what you can find is Starbucks, Costa Café etc. It’s so hard to find small cafés here; at least in Birmingham! I should say hot chocolates don’t taste that nice at all, because when you drink something in a franchised shop, you don’t feel special! You feel like you are just a part of the commercial world that sells you a cup of coffee to add another shop or swimming pool to their lives not to make you happy with a special cup of hot chocolate! :)
After writing what I wrote above, we hit the town and went to a Viennese Patisserie in Bull Ring and ate some yummy cakes, and guess what I ordered? Of course, hot chocolate!!! :)
Well, the cake was nice, but tasted a bit stale to me. They put real dairy cream on the hot chocolate! But it wasn’t sweet, it tasted heavy.. and they put too much salt in my hot chocolate! Yes, you heard it right: not sugar, salt!
Oh, how hard it is to find a nice cup of hot chocolate in this country!

Sunday, 25 October 2009


In Turkey, we have henna nights. Henna is a symbol of celebration. Whatever we celebrate, we use henna to show people that we are celebrating something: a wedding or a circumcision ceremony. Henna is a very mysterious substance.
When you put a measure of henna on your palm, you don't know what kind of pattern or colour you'll get..It might be really disappointing, or something that you really love like a bracelet or a ring..

In Tunisia, I recognised a mysterious pattern common to henna designs, doors, chairs, and windows.. Unlike current Turkish henna styles, they have floral designs made with dots and the designs that they put on their doors.. The way that they prepare henna is quite different than the Turkish way as well. Tunisians put lots of interesting herbs and spices into the henna mixture and keep it on a piece of burning coal until the sun reaches the same point on the next day. The result is an extremely small bottle of black henna (like eye-liner) to paint and decorate hands, feet, and bellies.. Obviously, in the Ottoman harem women drew flowers and various designs on their bodies, but obviously along with many other things, modern Turks forgot about it..

You can find different henna designs that belong to various oriental cultures at this link:

Henna is a form of art like tattooing, but more mysterious, challenging, and creative.
Picture 2: Tunisian women (they are just waxwork statues) having a henna party
Picture 3: Preparation of Tunisian henna

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Brussels..a city of life is...

In 2009, I've been to 10 countries, spoken five languages, used eight different currencies...2009 has been the year that I've learnt to appreciate the value of life more than any year...
I've experienced that life is short, transient and unexpected...
Therefore, I am announcing the secret of a professional tourist: while travelling
1.If you intend to buy any souvenirs/pressies/or anything for yourself buy the first reasonable one on first sight. Never fool yourself, saying 'I might find a cheaper one later'!!! It never happens; if it does, then buy that one as well! It's better than regret!
2. Even if you live in that city/country temporarily, go to the places that you want to visit most (museums, nearby cities, parks etc.), take photos of the places you live, take some shots in the area that you live or work. Never postpone anything till later! Life is too short and unexpected! (One day you think you'll be in that city for another two months and feel homesick, the next day you hear that your father had an accident and had the worst possible brain trauma and is in intensive care and you leave everything behind: your clothes, asthma medication, incense sticks, the new sauce pan, the waffles and cheese that you just bought yesterday; and take the first flight and go to take care of your father who is in a coma and who can't remember who you are or what your relation is to him when he wakes up. One day you are employed in your dream career, the next day you are a carer. One day you are homesick, the next day you are in your home but life tasteless and sorrowful..) Life is too short, too unexpected!
So, never postpone anything in your life! Live your life to the bottom! unfinished adventure.. or an adventure 'to be continued' for me..
Brussels, or Belgium, has been the only country that I have been to in which, when you go to tourist information, you have to buy the tourist map (5€). If you know about it and if you ask for it, they might provide you a basic map that shows bus and train routes as well, but I should say, that map is not that useful for finding your way around town.
I lived in many countries, even in countries that I don't speak the language of. However Brussels has been the only city where I constantly got lost! Logic doesn't work in Brussels! You think 'Well, I came this way that much, so if I go along this parallel street this much I should be able to get to that place that I want to go!' No!No!No! Logic doesn't work in Brussels! It's like a carousel, a labyrinth, a magical place where everywhere is connected to each other in a minute and in an hour!
Well, the best thing to do is to buy a proper map in Brussels from the kiosk, or the tourist information!
Brussels is a city of comics: there are many stores that sell second- and first-hand comic books, magazines and toys of cartoon characters! If you don't know, Belgium hosts many artists of many comic books, such as The Smurfs, Tin Tin, Lucky Luke, etc. In Brussels you visit churches and you find that the biblical stories are depicted as comics!!!! Actually, it's not that unusual! In Korea, you go to churches and you find out from the paintings at the church that Jesus the Christ had eyes and a beard like an ancient Korean and he wore the traditional Korean outfit, Hanbok!