Monday, March 31, 2008

officially london-ed.

london was the one place that i was really looking forward to visit during my exchange, and it definitely didn't disappoint! after being immersed in all things dutch for almost 2 months now, i was on a practical high when my ryanair plane landed in stansted airport. everything was in english!

fish for sale at borough market

i was reading every single word on the signboards and advertisements i walked past and was grinning like a big fat idiot. in netherlands when the dutch speak it becomes a habit to block off people's conversations because you don't understand what they're talking about. but as i was walking along the arrival halls i took a double take when i heard familiar words, only to realise that yes i'm in london and in london people speak ENGLISH! not to mention the right wheel drive just like singapore, even the highways look like those back home.

ms hwa chong night

cheuk ka and her boyfriend, ronald, were my lovely hosts for the 5 days i was there, bringing me around (even though it wasn't cheap to do so) and also letting me put up at their place. i had a wonderful time catching up with them. =) thanks to the both of them, i finally satisfied my cravings for chinese food at london's chinatown with superb hong kong duck and dim sum. yums!

no worries, i don't eat swans

it being my first time in london, i did all the touristy stuff like visit the two bridges, big ben, buckingham palace and hyde park. i also visited the three famous museums, of which my favourites were the science museum (nothing like the one in singapore, i promise) and the victoria & albert museum. if i could i'd go back one day just to look through the exhibits a little more thoroughly.

a captured moment in front of the tower bridge

i spent a day or two travelling around on my own and it's really easy to get around london with the tube system, similar to our mrt. there's so much to do in london even 5 days was a tad rush. the people i've met were really nice and friendly, and it's just the whole english culture that makes london absolutely endearing. just think street names like earl's court, leicester square, wimbledon and chelsea!

a well fed squirrel is a photogenic squirrel

let's just let the pictures do the talking, shall we? =)

england... ah!!

click here for my favourite shots of london.
click here for more of london.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

england... ahhhh!

i'd planned to post this yesterday but was too caught up in trying to finish my term paper it totally slipped my mind. so here's a belated but nonetheless happy easter holidays to everyone! =) i just arrived in london today and will be here until wednesday. the land of mr bean and jamie oliver here i come!!!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

dutch family.

there's a family in maastricht who has been contacting batches of exchange students from asia since 1993 because they are interested to learn more about the asian culture. i happen to be one of the fortunate ones this term. cyril and his mother, gerry invited a few of us (cheryl, lionel, thohir and i) to their home one day for some tea. it's quite uncommon for us to receive such enthusiasm and hospitality from strangers even back home so we were quite taken aback and even suspicious at one point. heh! but it turned out to be a really enriching experience.


it was really cool to be able to step into a real dutch home and explore a garden full of herbs and vegetables, but what was even better was the chance to really converse with some dutch people and learn more about their culture.


knowing that i like anything to do with food, they invited me back again for an evening meal (they don't call it a dinner unless it's really a celebration) to sample some traditional dutch food, and hopefully to learn how to cook them for the rest of the students back in the guesthouse.

gerry moves so fast for her age the camera can't even capture her!

i went to the supermarket to get groceries with gerry (i don't even do that with my grandma!), and watched her as her agile fingers whipped up a simple but delightful meal.

starters - cheese soup. yums!

mains - mashed potatoes with cabbage. yums!

mains - meatballs which were super tender and delicious. gazillion yums!!!

the hospitality i've received from them has been absolutely heartwarming. cyril is constantly cracking his jokes and poking fun of gerry, while gerry always reminds me of my family back at home. after the meal there's always dessert with coffee/tea. sounds like the full menu at a restaurant eh? a "simple" evening meal already like that... i wonder what a real dinner will be like!?! =)

have you ever seen an easter tree?

so anyway i tried making the cheese soup yesterday but it fell below my expectations because it wasn't smooth enough. perhaps with more practice i'll share the recipe one day, though i'd rather not because you'll start getting conscious of how much cheese is actually in there. haha!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

only if it interests you..

flying the EU flag

this photo doesn't fit into my previous blog post, that's why i posting it here. if you're interested in more photos of bruges the links are below. enjoy!

click here for Bruges part I of III - people, places
click here for Bruges part II of III - people, places
click here for Bruges part III of III - chocolates and others

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

a taste of belgium!

last weekend we made a day trip to Bruges (Brugge in dutch), in belgium. the great thing about being in maastricht is that we're right smack between the belgium and german border. a trip to paris takes just 3 hours, a trip to brussels 2 hours, and to germany just 1 hour! how cool is that?

bruges is a world heritage site and belongs to the flemish region of belgium. belgium has two main regions, the dutch speaking flemish region and french speaking walloon region, with a small community who speaks german. as a result, belgium has three official languages - dutch, french and german! it was interesting because for our 3 hours ride from maastricht-liege-bruges, the language around us changed from dutch to french to dutch again.

366 steps up the belfry

preserving a piece of history

i must say bruges is quite a nice place with some very unique buildings, but was a tad too touristy.

horny dog spotted a friend!

there were also plenty of chocolate shops along the streets and we were really in chocolate heaven. i've always heard about the reputation of belgian chocolate, but after trying some for myself, i was really blown away. i bought some chocolates from The Chocolate Line, one of the shops recommended by lonely planet, and they didn't even survive the train ride home because i ate them all!

uber fresh, uber dark chocolate, uber quality!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

mad mike.

this is one of the many reasons why i love him. =)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

the damage is done.

last friday, a group of poor singaporean students went to visit roermond, a town 40mins away from maastricht. after travelling far and wide and walking through streets and alleys, they finally arrived at a village within the town itself. this is by no means an ordinary village, for legend has it that anyone, rich or poor, who enters that village, will come out of it poorer than before.

these 6 poor (but brave) singaporeans stepped into the village and never turned back. true indeed, at the end of 5 gruelling hours, all of them walked out exhausted and even poorer than before but extremely happy.

the name of the village? Roermond Designer Outlet Village. *cue thunder and lightning*

damage done to the wallets? a combined of a few hundred euros. individual expenditures have been intentionally hidden to protect the reputations of the characters.

some examples of the monstrous discounts found:

nike bag found in discount bin - 10 euros!

fred parry jacket - usual price 115 euros, bought for 35 euros!

nike watch - usual price 99 euros, bought for 44 euros!

somebody stop us please!!!

what God has promised. =)

with lots of love and encouragement all the way from singapore, i've got mail!

(batteries, i mean, dog not included.)

you know spring has arrived...

... when spiders start crawling out from where ever they have been sleeping.

... when bumble-bees start buzzing in the air.

... when botak trees are no longer bald, and flowers start blooming! =)

pretty pretty!