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Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’

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Sights and Sounds of a Spice Route

Monday, May 13th, 2013

One thinks of a “route” as a means to get from one point to another.  In ancient times throughout history, spices have been as valuable as gold and silver. According to a 15th century saying: “No man should die who can afford cinnamon.”

Think about that the next time you sprinkle a little bit of this sweetness into your coffee or tea.

The spice trade was a commercial activity of ancient origin which involved the merchandising of spices, incense, herbs, and other drugs between historic civilizations in Asia, Africa and Europe. What oil, agriculture, stocks and free markets are today….is what spices, medicine, herbs and other aromatic pleasures were of yesterday.

As our group of Amazing Journeys passengers return home to their normal routines, what they just experienced in Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India was quite the contrary.  Life in these parts are not just figuratively worlds apart.  Life is a different order here. The value system is vastly different from the western world in so many ways.  Rich people live in homes with dirt floors. Poor people have satellite dishes and cell phones.  Washing your clothes at a river is commonplace.  Creamating the dead along a river is custom.  A road is means to get where you’re going, but it doesn’t matter how you get there or by which means.  Camels, rickshaws, trucks piled high with a hundred laborers, tuk tuks (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto_rickshaw), bicycles, motorscooters, cars, busses and anything that moves, moves on these roads. And in any direction where there is an open space.  Western folk tend to cringe at every turn on the roadways, while the locals are just navigating their way through another day in the life.

Men wear turbans, women wear saris.  Kids play cricket on the side of the road like we shoot hoops in our driveway.  Laundry hangs out to dry; sometimes in a window, sometimes along the median in the road….sometimes as an full-fledged business along the highway.  Goats and cows roam freely, but they are all owned by someone; someone who just let them out for the day.  At the end of the day…yes, the cows do come home.  You have something to sell? Just bring a table and set it all down on the sidewalk and start selling.  Or, just hawk the tourists when they come by. Need to pray?  The nearest mosque, shrine or temple is closer to you than the nearest Starbucks in Seattle.   Want to see some wildlife (beyond the cows)?  Just look up – monkeys abound like unsupervised children.

And food!  Oh, the food.  How about Pani Puri (a crisp doughy cracker dipped in spicey water)…or Aloo Tikki patties made up of mashed potatoes and masala deep fried in oil?  You can buy that off the side of the road.  Nan that is freshly made in a fire pit is about the closest one can come to heaven of the tastebuds.  Thirsty?  Have a freshly squeezed sugar cane to drink–literally right off the cane, pressed between two rotating metal wheels. Want to spice up that meal? India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia have thousands of spice variations that can diversify and intensify a diet more than most easterns would care to dare.  But its there!  Spices and herbs and aromas are an essential part of the culture and of immense important to commerce.

Spices are used in different forms – whole, chopped, ground, roasted, sauteed, fried and as topping. Locals blend food to extract the nutrients and bind them in a palatable form. Some spices are added at the end as a flavouring and are typically heated in a pan with ghee or cooking oil before being added to a dish. Lighter spices are added last, and spices with strong flavor should be added first. Curry is not a spice, but a term used by western people and refers to any dish in Indian cuisine that contains several spices blended together and could be with a gravy base or a dry item. A curry in Indian cuisine typically consists of whey cooked with gram flour, chopped onions, turmeric powder, and several spices blended together and some that are fried and added in the end as flavoring.

Spices and herbs are used for medicinal purposes too.  Any ailment or hygenic enhancement can supposedly be aided or cured with an herbal concoction.  Your’s truely had a hair removal treatment on my leg, at no extra charge. Or pain for that matter.  You can ease digestive challenges….smooth your skin….get rid of hemmeroids….cease balding….increase your metabolism…build muscle tone….and look 20 years younger, just by taking a few natural herbs.  We saw the garden of eden…and the man who would say so.   And yes, my hairy legs were smooth as a butter.  It must work.

Its not easy to get there, but it is so worth the trip.  It puts life into prespective and opens your eyes to a whole new world (and sometimes it opens your nostrils too…and makes your eyes water with all that spice). If  you live in a developed country, be grateful.  Its all relative, but I’m happy to have what I have here in the good ol’ USA.  Life along the Indian Ocean isn’t necessarily a bad life; its just a life that I am glad to have visited.  But with well over a billion people all vying for space its a bit overcrowded for me.    Its so interesting in so many ways…and so different in even more ways.  I’ll go again.  Will you?

What Exactly Is The Spice Route?

Friday, April 12th, 2013

“He who controls the spice, controls the universe.”

Such were the words uttered by the main character of the movie Dune.In the story, the spice was the lifeblood of a vast empire. For the leaders of this empire, it was essential that at all times ‘the spice must flow.’ The spice trade of the Dune movie was inspired by the historical trade in aromatics from ancient times to the present. At various periods in history, spices have been as valuable as gold and silver. According to a 15th century saying: “No man should die who can afford cinnamon.”

The spice trade was a commercial activity of ancient origin which involved the merchandising of spices, incense, herbs, and other drugs between historic civilizations in Asia, Africa and Europe. These aromatic substances became even more mysterious over time as they were connected in many cultures with the idea of a faraway paradise — Eden

In a few short days, Amazing Journeys will be sailing along the same waters as the traders from the Roman Empire, Medieval Europe, ancient Egyptians and even Colonial Spain. We will be traveling a bit differently, though, as we embark upon a luxury cruise ship for 14 days of ultimate relaxation and unique exploration.  Beginning in Singapore, we’ll make stops in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and various ports throughout southern India before heading home.  A few lucky souls have also taken advantage of an added 4 night tour into Northern India to see the Taj Mahal.

What oil, agriculture, stocks and free markets are today….is what spices, medicine, herbs and other aromatic pleasures were of yesterday.  The next time you sprinkle a little cinnamon on your oatmeal or spice up your kung pao chicken, take pause for a moment to realize that these everyday enhancements were once a means of livlihood and survival for many civilizations.

“Amazing Journeys”….or “Azamara’s Journey”; no matter how you slice it, its a match made in the ocean.

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

The new buzz word in the world of cruising is “Azamara”.  A two-ship cruise line and part of the Royal/Celebrity family of ships these vessels are  a special brand unto itself.

Azamara states that they are “out to change the world…or at least how you get there”…and Amazing Journeys is becoming a regular partner.  Over the past two years, we have taken about 100 passengers on Azamara, much to their exceptional delight.  This year, you too can partake in the experience. 

What makes Azamara different? 

  • A smaller ship experience. 
  • Upscale attentiveness and service.
  • More inclusions including all non-alcoholic beverages, specialty coffees, bottled water and even wine with meals
  • An almost 1:1 ratio of guest and staff
  • Late night and overnight ports of call in unique out-of-the-ordinary locales
  • Half price shore excursion and substantial air fare specials
  • And much much more!

 

In the news, Journey emerged last week from an eight-day makeover in dry dock.  The 694-passenger cruise ship has been spruced up with new carpets and upholstery in public spaces; new mattresses and upgraded balcony furniture for cabins; a resurfaced pool; and new sun loungers and pool towels on the outer decks. Among areas getting the most significant upgrades was the Journey’s Casino Bar, which was expanded and enhanced with new furniture. Also getting a notable overhaul was the ship’s spa and fitness center, which received a new steam room, showers and Life Fitness cardio equipment.

On the culinary front, a new caviar and champagne bar was added to Aqualina, one of the ships’ two specialty dining venues. The makeover also brings a new Chef’s Table concept that will feature three wine degustation menus serving Italian, French and California cuisine, respectively.

Amazing Journeys clients demand excellence and Azamara is the one to provide it. The Journey  is currently sailing on a 13-night Indonesia voyage round-trip from Singapore….but come April 17th she will begin a journey of stellar proportions. First and foremost, the Journey will become “Amazing” in more ways than one.  AMAZING JOURNEYS will join the Azmara Journey in Singapore for a unique one-time-only voyage through the jewels of the Indian Ocean.  After an overnight in Singapore, we’ll be sailing to Malaysia, Sri Lanka and 3 cities in southern India before disembarking for an optional 3 night extension into India’s northern geography for a chance to visit Delhi, Agra and The Taj Mahal.

This 14-night cruise will be one for the ages.  We still have limited space available; if you’d like to learn more call Amazing Journeys at 412-571-0220, email us info@amazingjourneys.net or visit http://amazingjourneys.net/trip/spice-route-cruise.  See more about this awesome ship: http://www.azamaraclubcruises.com/plan-your-voyage/booking/explore-our-ships/azamara-journey

One Night in Bangkok

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

More than One Night in Bangkok….it was “Slingin’ it in Singapore” and “Gooooooooood Morrrrrrrrning Vietnaaaaaam”.

What an amazing journey, on so many fronts!  Its been just a few days since AJ returned from the far east, having visited some truly remarkable, interesting and memorable places.  From visiting extravagant Buddhas and riding elephants in Thailand to chillin’ like the locals overnight in Saigon ….from the opulence of a Grand Palace to the chaos of motorbikes-gone-wild in Vietnam….from a New Year’s Eve Party on the pool deck to riding the “Flyer” in Singapore, the thousands of miles traveled,  the places we visited,and the scores of friendships made will not soon be forgotten.

A picture’s worth a thousand words so enjoy this story of 3 weeks in Asia, and a Happy New Year like no place on earth:

HAPPY NEW YEAR (already?)

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

For Amazing Journeys and 92 excited people (Jewish singles) from across North America and other countries across the globe, the New Year’s holiday is about to begin.  Our amazing tour of southeast Asia is about to embark with two days in Hong Kong before setting sail on December 23rd for two weeks in Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore. 

And so, our holiday begins tomorrow as the planning and planning concludes and the transit across the globe commences.  Friends from 15 cities across the US and Canada will meet up with friends from Australia, Great Britain, and Switzerland for an indulgence of wildly interesting cultures, tantalizing cuisine and a plethora of social interaction that will provide friendships and memories to last a lifetime.  Add to all this, a newly revitalized cruise ship – the Celebrity Millennium – and a little bit of pampering will just top off the truly remarkable vacation for everyone. 

Follow our escapades on our facebook page; we’ll be posting photos and captions from our adventures. just click here: www.facebook.com/AmazingJourneys 

To all who are joining us, we can’t wait to see you.  To all of our other “amazing” friends; we hope to see you again in 2013.   Happy Healthy New Year to all!

The Coolest Pools-some real jewels

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
Want to make a splash? With the oppressive heat that’s hit our nation these past few weeks, a little dip’l dooya right fine. Sure there are the public watering holes, and there are the fine private clubs with nice pools and resort “Club Cabanas”…even apartment and housing complexes with swimming facilities.  But if you’re a pool snob looking to make a swim more of a vacation experience than just a cool-down, have I got a few tasty treats for you.  Check out these three most amazing one-of-a-kind swimming experiences that will definitely make the biggest waves this summer.
Ultimate Luxury – This  deliciously decadent pool can be found at the Al Bustan Palace InterContinental Muscat, in Muttrah, Oman. Pool butlers roam round a 164-foot-long infinity pool set between two colonnades of towering palms, seeming to disappear into the Gulf beyond. Catering to your every need, whether your towels require fluffing or your spritzer could use a re-spritzing, the roving butlers keep an impeccably serviced eye on proceedings.
A Totally Wired Pool- The watery wonder at the Four Seasons in Wailea, Hawaii is not about switching off on vacation. In fact, the Serenity Pool is quite the opposite. This switched-on, technologically superior swimming scene is for people who want to lounge poolside, but don’t want to miss a beat. With an underwater music system, wireless Internet access, and six cabanas with flat screen HDTVs with wireless headsets, the Serenity Pool is something of a misnomer.
Highest Pool- The highest, most precarious-looking pool of them all is the infinity pool on top of Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Resort.  The edgy SkyPark pool brims 55 stories above the city. It stretches 500 feet (3 times the length of an Olympic pool) across the span of the three towers and seems to spill waterfall-like down to the streets 200 feet below. The hotel’s incredible rooftop park is also home to restaurants, lounges, and hundreds of trees and plants. Day passes are available if you want to check out the observation deck, but if you want to take a dip in the pool it’s strictly guests only.