Wednesday, 18 December 2019

NYC: WTC, Battery Park & Chinatown!

After leaving the craziness of Newark's Downtown and the familiarities from the Ironbound District, it was time for me to take the PATH back to the city. I had missed the completion date of the new One World Trade Center, sure I needed to pay attention! To walk down memory lane along the iconic Battery Park one more time! Pho from Chinatown needed to happen B! 

Flashback to that morning I stepped from my WTC bound E Train from Court Sq, the ivory white walls of One World Trade Center, I had always known it that transportation and shopping hub as a concrete shell. In that moment things stood completed, that 2019 morning had me remember all the times I had crossed the Hudson River on the PATH from Newark, New Jersey. The ark like roof shone with a neon blue light, I had unlocked the future, from that 2019 stance I couldn't believe how much things had changed. Going down to the PATH platforms allowed me to see things look so much more inviting and passenger friendly compared with those 2012 days. The PATH operative allowed me to pass through the barrier because the method to add the additional fare had me confused, explaining I was going back to Jersey after eights away that guy had made my holiday much better! I respected that random act of kindness! 

Fast forward to the lunch time hour, arriving back into WTC had me surrounded by hoards of tourists as I reached the shopping concourse. Finally, I accessed street level to find the towering One World Trade Center building looking down in my view. I had passed that special skyscraper many times during 2012 during its lengthy phase of construction. Another sense of completion could be felt in the air, I was feeling all kinds of nostalgia but in the next breathe I was being served something totally new! I wasn't down for any tours, dodging those individuals I took my time to appreciate the all new One World Trade Center with the 9/11 Memorial pools that came into my view, a sobering reminder during that moment that was filled with optimism. The whole morning had been mad, I felt very thankful in that moment and even now I'm looking back with fondness and appreciation. The WTC chapter could finally be closed with conviction, I had returned for the reasons mentioned above. 

Rewinding once again, I knew the way to Battery Park from WTC. No mistakes made, desperately seeking something like the time before I wasn't going to be feeling blue. Inspired by the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan that featured one of NYC's famous riverside parks, I had the title for my website and blog back during that initial 2012 visit. The first time around the boardwalk along Battery Park's riverfront was heaving with people, thankfully during that freezing yet sunny Sunday afternoon it was quite calm. I took my time and wasn't going to be rushed nor was I going to have my photos littered with tourists in the background. Things looked amazing, with the views of the Statue of Liberty in the distant with New Jersey in my sights, the whole experience around felt effortless and very correct indeed! No, I didn't see Susan during that Battery Park flashback experience, I was living nonetheless.

My visit to New York City's Battery Park was short but it was very sweet, it took me back to that first encounter when I was at the starting point of my placement year. To recapture those moments that inspired my first day out feature and the headline title of my blog had me feeling all kinds of feeling eight years on from that moment. The journey after working at Newark Airport had been filled with my degree, employment uncertainties then my life in China, to return to that spot felt very correct in that moment because I had accomplished a lot because of my placement year after standing in that very park with visions of Madonna seeking those personals as Susan. Coming back down to reality, my phone was losing battery and I was still new to my hostel area, not wanting to get myself lost I returned to my hostel to recharge before recommencing the days exploration. From WTC to those Downtown flashbacks alongside the river at Battery Park, gave me everything and more! Yes!

Resurfacing from the hostel, I had my phone at full charge but my Ferry Street Barbecue no longer satisfied my hunger. Getting back onto the NYC Subway to Canal Street had to be done. After living in China for four years before returning to NYC's Chinatown had me feeling more feelings. I was on the hunt for some Vietnamese food because outside of China's Mainland or territories I don't eat Chinese food from restaurants unless its homemade fare. 'Pho 88' had closed down, choosing the next best thing had to be 'Nha Trang One'. Ordering my usual dishes I enjoyed every single bit, a part of me was quite disheartened that the original place wasn't present but I had what I wanted to eat. Stepping back out into the streets of Chinatown had me reading all kinds of signs, the first time around I couldn't read any Simplified Chinese characters. Four years living and working in China had changed all of that! Sure, it felt so crazy!

Passing through Chinatown on the previous night after arriving into Newark Liberty International Airport, my airport transfer took me along Canal Street to see that things looked very different compared to 2012. My Chinese American driver informed me that their had been quite a lot of drama between the local authority and the souvenir shops that operated along Canal Street. A lot of the street sellers had been removed from the street as it was believed the local authority from the city wanted to clean the area up, with the hope of attracting more tourists. Whatever the drama I saw some shops trading just fine the next day after passing from the airport. Back to those Chinese reading skills, I knew the Simplified characters to make up the brand 'McDonalds' in Chinese but in NYC's Chinatown those golden arches adorned three characters that I couldn't read! Yes, those three characters were Traditional style commonly used in Guangdong (Mainland), Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Memory Lane! 

Joseph Harrison  

NJ: My Ironbound Comeback...

The timings had to be perfect, there would be no mistakes, no wrong turns because Newark's Ironbound had been a part of my life! I don't use laundromats as part of my China life, there's no sign of the local corner stores but those memories from Lafayette Street had vanished. I kept that promise as I arrived by the PATH into Newark Penn Station for my comeback! Yes B!

After making peace with the Downtown I made my way back under the tracks, entering Newark's Ironbound District to rediscover my former airport placement home. Taking the corner between Ferry and Adams Streets felt bizarre, it was like I hadn't been away at all! Seeing the usual places around the corner along with the familiar houses put me into a state of serious nostalgic love, it had been eight whole years since my last day that was spent in Newark, New Jersey. The familiar sounds had me back living that 2012 life for sure, hearing Spanish and Portuguese being spoken felt so normal to me even though I'm more likely to hear Mandarin spoken back in China. Making my way furthermore down Adams Street brought me with a very familiar corner, catching a glimpse of 'Madrid and Lisbon' fully transported me back to those days that I would walk to and from my Penn Station. I was hyped for Lafayette St! Yes Brit!

Turning the corner on Adams and Lafayette Streets took me right back to the beginning, remembering everything as if it was the previous day I took one hot minute to soak it all up! The intersection between those streets had me feeling all kinds of things, the whole feeling of the area had not changed one single bit, for that reason alone I was feeling immensely thankfully for the chance to see my former Newark home serving the same street style! One of the ground floor apartments within 333 Lafayette Street was my home for close to one year from February 2012 to January 2013, aside from living within the security of my Walt Disney World International College Program dorms I had never lived in such a down to earth and independent setting with the USA! Being respectful that 333 Lafayette was still someone's home I took my photos from the side as not to attract any unwanted attention because things can get real in Jersey! Yes, it was a blast from the past! C'mon, Lafayette St! 

Within my Lafayette address not having a washing machine it was crucial that I found a way to launder my clothes and what not. Just around the corner on Elm Street I found my local laundromat, more commonly known as 'laundrette's' in the United Kingdom. I would visit this Ironbound washing house during my mornings after the early shift or during a lazy day off, I didn't have a regimented schedule but I made sure my airport shirts were clean and ready to go for the next spilt shift. Sitting in the laundromat during that 2019 moment felt utterly insane, it was a feeling of true normality. I had spilt some grease onto my trousers during the flight from Beijing to Newark the previous night so that was my excuse. Many of the low income immigrant families who lived in the Ironbound would frequent this humble laundromat, it made for interesting interactions and the chance to listen to their Spanish chats. Cosa segura! 

Being my one shot opportunity, I had to get my photo without rousing any suspicions and to respect the local vibe of the laundromat. Successfully taking my snap, I then allowed myself to take in the views, whilst enjoying the Spanish music videos that were being played on the television, truly it was amazing to be back within such a place! My trousers had completed their cycle in the washing machine, not wanting wet trousers I counted my quarters and made my way over to the driers. As my washed trousers dried in the machine it gave me a chance to speak with a local mother who had dropped one of her clean socks onto the floor. We exchanged a few polite words and that gave me the chance to say how weird it felt to use English. She was amazed that I had lived in the Ironbound before and had taken the commitment to visit from China. The whole visit was perfect, so I had managed to find something to wash on my first day and had recaptured the warmth of the local people. 

Now, when that New Jersey summer suffocated me with that heat I would always run over to the corner store across from the laundromat between Elm and Pulaski Streets. I would quench my thirst with either Sumol or Inca Kola because that's how it was done during those Ironbound summer days! It wasn't just the drinks that I needed during those summer washing days, I definitely loved my life when I found a Snickers ice cream! The period after I lived in New Jersey was a period of emptiness because in Birmingham I never found such corner stores, I severely underestimated the impression Jersey and its quirky corner stores would leave me with. After my trousers had been washed and dried, I crossed the street to the corner store that has been captured above. I grabbed the first can of Sumol because there wasn't any small bottles of Inca Kola, nevertheless it tasted so deliciosamente bom! Eu amo o Ironbound!

Being polite I introduced myself to the lady who was behind the counter, I asked politely if I could take a photo of the store for my blog post and that the visit meant a lot after the eight years away. She accepted my request, in-exchange for the photo I bought a can Sumol because that Portuguese soft drink reminded me of my Ironbound days. It was such a lovely moment interacting with the lady who owned the shop, she couldn't believe that I had returned after such a long time and that going on from New Jersey I had been working in China for five years. The whole morning exploring those three points had really been my main motivations to return to Newark. The flight had been long but the journey had been longer since my Ironbound days, the simplicity of the morning and the beautiful humans that I had met that morning had made everything worth it! I was ready for some Ferry Street BBQ, absolutely nothing was going to get in my way that 2019 morning! Nada não!

Obrigado por tudo! Gracias por todo!

Joseph Harrison

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

NJ: Newark's Ironbound Realness!

Downtown Newark may have taken me out of my comfort zone a little, fearing not I retraced those familiar steps from Newark Penn Station to find Ferry Street. My blogging odyssey had started during my Ironbound days, eights years later since leaving on my VS2 flight I wanted everything Ironbound once again. I was craving dollar stores, Portuguese life and barbecue chicken! 

Downtown Newark was a done thing, walking away from the craziness towards Newark's Ironbound District. I had no clue about this Portuguese and South American infusion neighbourhood when I first arrived in February 2012. Getting used to the bus commute to Newark Liberty International Airport on a regular had me walking down Ferry Street in both directions, everyday I would get a lot of life from the realness that fronted me. The European familiarity came from the Portuguese vibe, those egg tarts found me once again but in the former Portuguese colony of Macau in 2016! During that Macanese CNY moment I had a strong feeling that I needed to board a Newark bound flight quick-time! Fast forward to 2019, I had my chance to make those Ironbound dreams come true in real-time motion. Those first Ferry Street steps allowed me to recapture those Portuguese and Colombian Spanish signs and shopfronts! 

Hearing those languages from Portugal, Brazil, Colombia and other spicy locations had me transported back to a homely place. To not be hearing Mandarin Chinese felt truly strange but the Ironbound took me back into the fold, I was living! Seeing those Colombiano shapes displayed in the ordinary shopfronts gave me another slice of nostalgia, the South American spice continued because those local Ironbound gents were looking mighty fine! Ferry Street was burning up during that freezing cold Decemeber 2019 morning, los hombres estaban en fuego! I had recently had my McDonalds breakfast at Newark Penn Station so I wasn't going to be having anything tasty from 'Pao de Terra', but I remembered those mornings walking back from Newark Penn Station that would witness me enjoying one of the deep-fried ham and cheese pieces of heaven with a coffee that didn't come from a well-known chain! Yes, the blessed thing in the Ironbound, money was spent within independent cafes and corps.

I had not been to either a 'Poundland' or 'Dollar Store' in a hot minute, so when I caught a glimpse of the first 'Amazing Dollar' along Ferry Street, I knew that I had to find a reason to pay a visit. Noticing that the next 'Amazing Dollar' as Adams Street grew nearer I walked in search for some detergent, all shall be revealed in the next post. The colours and crazy amount of all manner of things that were on the shelves transported me back to those random days off that I would find some of the most crazy things in that Colombian inspired 'Amazing Dollar' store. My detergent was marked at one dollar but in true Ferry Street style they told me another price, in full Spanish I had totally forgotten my numbers! Paying with my well-earned coins I did not understand that Spanish language but politely said 'gracias' because that was the right thing to do! I was looking for those ordinary things from my days living in the Ironbound District, B!

In that moment I was feeling so fortunate to be back within the Ironbound District, I wanted to keep my head clear so no drinks at Blitz Sports Bar would be consumed that morning. Passing places like Seabra's reminded me when I would be gasping for a drink during those summer months and then seeing Dunkin Donuts, I would love my 'Dunkaccino' and 'Texas Toast' with extra cheese! Walking along Ferry Street during that time meant that I didn't need any gym membership because the walk to the station helped me stay trim, I crave for a route to work like that in the future because in my dreams I would love my Newark body back! As I reached Adams and Ferry Streets I took a little trip down memory lane, that brief moment away from Ferry Street meant more to me than I had expected that it would! I have to be truthful that certain places on Ferry Street had changed, but progression was the main result. New additions were present along that familiar street but the vibe remained.

My go-to dining option along Ferry Street would always be half a chicken with rice and black beans, always washed down with a cold soft drink. I would usually get a take out because the large portion would last me up to three days, teamed with the protein, walking and lifting suitcases helped me slim down beyond belief! During my 2019 visit I wanted to dine in, the service was the same but the restaurant had expanded with extra seating available. I ordered my usual meal with a can of Gaurana, a Brazilian soft drink. Taking my time I lived for all of the flavours, the chicken tasted just the same with the black beans giving the rice a rice taste. The Sunday lunchtime trade kept the Ferry Street Barbecue very busy indeed! I was in no rush, taking my time I enjoyed my long-awaited Ferry Street meal! My first day back on the East Coast of the USA was everything that I had wanted it and more! Was it time to go back to NYC?

I stopped eating my food when I literally couldn't find anymore space for it in my stomach, feeling full and very content with that much missed meal it was time to return to NYC. From crossing the tracks from Downtown Newark into Newark's Ironbound District, I was fronted with the same sights that gave me life for certain, things had changed slightly during my eight years away from Jersey but I loved Ferry Street all the same. The over the top nature of 'Amazing Dollar' transported back to those random finds and helped me find some detergent to wash my trousers at my previous regular laundromat. Remember the locations by sight that held memories for me, let's leave those stories in the box where they should be. I devoured my Ferry Street BBQ meal before boarding my PATH train from Newark Penn Station. Getting back to Ferry Street within the Ironbound District gave me everything and more! Let's not leave it eight years again! Sejamos amigos para sempre!

Frango Tão Saboroso!

Joseph Harrison

Monday, 16 December 2019

Category Is... Downtown Newark, NJ!

Waiting for my Newark comeback, I was craving some danger and unpredictability because I want what isn't good for me. After flying for across the Arctic Circle and Mainland America, knowing that deep down I craved Newark's Historic Downtown, those feelings have never failed. Taking the PATH from New York City's One World Trade Center, I was ready for everything! 

Calling Newark, New Jersey my home one year during 2012 to 2013, the chaotic Downtown always had me under a spell. I was curious to know what kinds of 'Ratchet Fabulouness' was 'Newark Happening!' My 21 year old self wasn't ready for the heat of the Downtown in Newark, let's just say race motivates the demographics of NJ's Historic core and that was made clear to me by my African American colleagues with their love and safety for me at the core of their intentions. Fast forwarding to December 2019, I boarded my NJ bound PATH train from WTC to Penn Station in Newark with all kinds of emotions going on in my head but in my heart I had so much love for Newark during my time living amongst the crazy. No 62 bus to Terminal B nor the GO28 to Broad & Market, I was going back to witness any changes, also to recapture the heat within the maddening vibe of Downtown Newark. Was I really ready? NW, I was OK! 

As my PATH train pulled into the Newark area I was getting my life, half filled with trepidation because the Downtown in Newark isn't for the faint hearted! Newark Penn Station came into view, I couldn't begin to describe how I was feeling in that moment as my PATH train stopped at the drop off platform just the same as it had many times before after my trips to NYC. I wasn't working, getting off the train as a visitor with enough time on my hands felt so damn liberating, nothing was going to stop my pursuit because I had grown a lot since my residence in Newark. Not changing one bit, Newark Penn Station still served the same vibe and for that reason I felt as if I had stepped out from a time machine. Starved of my McGriddle breakfast from the McDonalds at Penn Station I found those golden arches for myself to see such a sobering sight. Sat down with my nostalgic breakfast within that McDonalds allowed me to hear those 'off the wall' and 'real' conversations like before! 

Proceeding towards Broad & Market, I saw the same unfortunate souls that made up the scene around Newark Penn Station. My life in China has seriously had me wrapped inside a blanket of cotton wool, pushing be outside of my current comfort zone had me feeling some kind of way. Keeping my eyes on the prize I clocked the street signs and the same sights that remained, retracing the way I would walk from the GO28 in reverse I was fine! Keeping things direct I kept on course for B&M, being a Sunday morning it was quiet on the streets as I passed Newark's Prudential Center. I did see some new developments but from an overall stance things looked the same, I was getting all kinds of memories thrown back at me and that felt so great! I wanted to see one familiar sight, from my 'Downtown' and 'Ironbound' blog I wanted to capture the scene outside NWK's former Paramount Theatre. No second chances! NO! 

I got my desired view as I reached the once art deco style Paramount Theatre on Market Street. Back in 2012 I avoided the Downtown because those characters petrified me, but in the same breath I had a burning desire to take a closer look. The former theatre had definitely seen its last standing ovation long before that December 2019 moment but I didn't have any rehearsal time, I needed to get that photo no matter how sketchy things were feeling! It was bizarre to see new eateries along that street, the proximity Newark had from New York City meant that a rejuvenated Downtown would bring in new life, I wasn't feeling those new additions one bit! With a strong stance, the scene of 'Brick City' gave me everything that I had wanted because my eight year hiatus had felt like an eternity. Having mad flashbacks I remembered those mornings when I would walk home from the GO28 through Market Street, that piece of memory lane questioned the life experience I acquired. 

Like a smack in the face I fronted the cold and crazy intersection between Broad & Market Streets, now that first encounter after arriving into Newark Liberty in 2012 made an impressionable mark on my consciousness! Countless times I would change to one of the buses that would either take me to Ferry Street or just to Penn Station after the evening shift had finished, those twilight hours within the Downtown along Broad & Market were no joke! As clear as day I remembered withdrawing some money out from the ATM at Bank of America on the corner of Broad & Market, surrounded by folks had me on a constant guard. That 2019 Sunday morning made me feel more relaxed, only slightly because it was a more sombre affair. In another sense I was living my life, getting everything that I had missed from the buzz of Downtown, definitely like a drug I needed one more hit! I was high on that nostalgia!

I was expecting the whole inner core to be retrofitted, in one way I lived to see the same street shop fronts, I instantly remembered passing the bustling intersection from the confides of my NJ 62 bus. My airport commute had me going through Downtown Newark as it was the main artery road towards the McCarter Highway, as I stood in that cold December moment I felt content with that stance as I wasn't going to retrace that 62 bus route closer to the airport. Glancing over towards the same PCS street billboard I saw some of the usual faces. Casting my mind back to those nights and afternoons whilst changing the bus in Downtown I would see all kinds of people, but I didn't hear 'Lucy, lucy, lucy!' That street chant meant cigarettes were being sold on the down and low, such memories brought back from that crazy year! Going further back to 2012, I crossed over to walk along Market Street towards Military Park just like my NJ 62 bus every working day. Ey, the same shops traded! 

Pushing forwards I still had more to see before finding my way to my former Ironbound neighbourhood. Minding my own damn business, I kept my senses together as I approached Downtown's Military Park to see a certain sense of progression. The imposing Prudential buildings towered over that city street moment, I witnessed a mild spot of change as the NJPAC came into view. Never did I ever imagine that I would see a Starbucks in the heart of Newark's Downtown core! Not then, not today, not ever! Newark women always impressed with their inventive weaves and wigs, fast forward eight years I got my life as a lady passerby was serving a multi-coloured 'My Little Pony' styled wig! That lady in-question was definitely serving 'My Little Pony Realness!' Using that moment of 'Ratchet Fabulousness' grounded me, I knew the real reason why I had taken my chance to return! I needed to find Military Park! Get into it, B!

Military Park and the PSEG building were both places that I would pass every working day on the NJ 62 bus, I wanted to take some time to actually explore the area. In that 2012 moment all I did was star out of the bus window, never did I ever imagine that I would be standing in the heart of that park. That area stood slightly back from the Downtown Core, I sensed a new crowd of 'office types' and other arty people would be changing the face of this side of Newark. Out of nowhere as I looked up into the sky, a Newark Police helicopter circled the skies over the Downtown! I won't lie I was shook, regardless of that choppers reason for flying that Sunday morning it left me feeling a certain way for sure! Keeping that 'My Little Pony' slice of 'Realness' in mind I made my way back towards Newark Penn Station to cross the tracks into the Ironbound section. Feeling accomplished and thankful for the opportunity to return, I felt so proud of myself because Downtown Newark requires nerve! 

Who's Lucy? I Don't Know Her! 

Joseph Harrison 

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Flying High... United!

Over the last four to five years 'Flying High...' has been an Asian affair, desperately seeking an American contingent had to be done! Paying the price I booked my direct United flight from Beijing to Newark/New York in May 2019, the eight year hiatus had been long enough, I needed Jersey! After packing my bags, it was time to make my UA88 flight to Newark, New Jersey!

Reporting for my United flight to Newark Liberty earlier than needed be, I checked in seamlessly at Terminal 3 of Beijing's Capital Airport. With my gate changed it felt like I had walked miles from E25 to E16, as if my luck would have had it, UA89 from Newark Liberty pulled into the gate just as I had arrived at E16 myself. I excitedly took several photos of that Boeing B777-200, it had been such a long time since May 2019 I was just so excited to be finally flying back to Newark Liberty with United. Boarding time rolled around, things went smooth and before I knew I had taken my aisle seat, 33C. Embracing the fact my aircraft had served some miles in her years, I wasn't mad that the in-flight entertainment screen wasn't retrofitted. United are going through a massive fleet overhaul, I hope to get a chance to fly on their new Dreamliner rather than another well flown Boeing B777-200. Anyhow, it was time to fly high! UA88, let's go B! 

Why did I choose United? Claiming to be the 'Friendly Skies' I wanted to see if their self-professed approach lived up to real life motion. Shortly after takeoff the cabin crew passed through the cabin with a selection of drinks and snacks, I chose to drink a red wine and by all means it wasn't my only grape based beverage during that 13 hour flight over the Arctic Circle, no! Complimented with some 'Asian Rice Crackers' I didn't really care for the snack but nevertheless I took a chance. Looking through the IFE system gave me life, I had seen about Jennifer Lopez and Cardi B's new film, 'Hustlers' but had never seen it! I guess exotic dancing and extortion aren't things that would down well with a Chinese audience, regardless I shelved that title for when the meal would be served. Breaking some time up I watched one episode of 'Schitt's Creek', I had seen bits of that show before, taking the time to watch it properly was great! What would the choices be for the meal? Get it good, Unieesha!

Unieesha? Yes B, I named my United aircraft Unieesha because of our destination, she would fly me to the city of 'Ratchet Fabulousness!' Enough of that business, it was time for the main evening meal to be served within the cabin, my flight had almost cleared Chinese airspace so it was time that we ate something. I chose the pasta, I enjoyed my meal whilst I dipped in and out of 'Hustlers'. The pasta option was nice, the warm bread was a nice accompaniment and if truth be told bread is a luxury compared with the Chinese staple foods like rice and noodles. With another wine for good measure, I rated the amount of times that the crew were serving drinks during the beginning of the flight. I took my time with my food, the crew didn't rush things at all, that was appreciated because I was quite preoccupied with taking the photo to the right. We had ham sandwiches before we landing into Newark! Yass!

After the meal service finished the cabin lights were dimmed to allow everybody to sleep if they chose to. Being too excited I made several trips from my seat to the rear galley to get more water and wine, I also wanted to strike up a conversation with one of the crew and sneakily observe their in-flight duties. Returning back to my seat to continue with 'Hustlers' gave me the chance to relax into that ultra long haul flight. 'Hustlers' was a really good film, only choosing one film to focus on through the flight gave me the opportunity to pause then continue when I felt like it. It was nice to talk with the lady next to me, she was Chinese and on her way back to her suburban South Philly home. Crew passed through the darkened cabin with small bottles of water, it was great to have my own bottle rather than just a small cup. Our sandwiches were served three quarters through the flight, I lived for that delicious chilled ham sandwich! Returning to the galley I enjoyed a few more sandwiches! So tasty!

The 'Friendly Skies?' Yes, the United cabin crew who were onboard my United UA88 flight from Beijing to Newark were amazing, I'm not saying that because it sounds good, its the truth! Having a mixed age crew allowed for different conversations, also many crew were Chinese speakers so it gave me the chance to say some of the things my students say to me! I got talking to the 'International Purser' who was very friendly and easy to talk to, it was such an excitement for me to be returning to Newark since working at the airport, he understood I was very happy indeed! All of the crew onboard the flight were based at Newark Liberty International Airport, one crew member said that she can fly to China up to three times per month! Yes, every airline has its moments but I can say from my own experience the crew were happy in their roles and promoted the United brand very well! Would I get my photo? Of course!

I had already cleared it with the 'International Purser' if it would be fine to take a photo with one of the crew members who were not feeling camera shy, he appreciated that I asked in such a polite way as he expressed some passengers don't have that common courtesy and respect towards the crew. Four hours before landing into Newark Liberty I was standing outside the boundary of the rear galley, minding my own business and drinking my wine, popping my head into the galley I smiled at 'Terri' and asked her politely for a photo with her for this blog. She gladly accepted my request, I told her I had asked her because she sold what the 'Friendly Skies' motto serves from the United standards. The crew were overall very friendly and engaged in conversation with me throughout the flight, it was a truly worthwhile experience choosing to fly with United on such a special flight. Buckling up it was time for our Boeing B777-200 to make its finals into Newark Liberty, I was ready! Thanks, Unieesha!

Planning my trip back to Newark hadn't been easy, being a British citizen I would usually be eligible to enter the United States of America with an ESTA. After taking a trip to North Korea in February 2019 I didn't think any of it but several months after that trip, any visitors wishing to visit the USA after visiting North Korea would need to apply for an official B1/B2 visa. Feeling the anxiety with potentially being refused entry into the States at Newark Airport I disembarked my flight with a feeling of trepidation. Before immigration I lived for the views of Newark's Terminal B, our gate was next to where my previous work placement airline would board. It had me feeling so kind of way! Teamed with that nostalgia, I proceeded to the customs clearing to be produced a paper slip that had a huge black cross on it. Making my way to see an officer filled me with pure dread. The officer was rather amused that I had visited NK! Thanks!

I was not ready for the 'red coat' to serve her Newark tone with me! It was everything! Cleared and landed into the United States of America at Newark Liberty International Airport had me feeling utterly blessed! Clocking that the arrivals hall hadn't changed on single bit was such a sight to be seen. Clocking the Virgin Atlantic check-in process going on as I made my way to my transfer made me feel truly accomplished, I had worked hard to return to the New York area, things felt correct in that moment! Things in Terminal B were looking all shiny and new, meanwhile I was feeling jet lagged beyond belief, nevertheless overjoyed to be back at EWR Airport one more time! All in all, the experience with United was very good indeed with their friendly crew, enjoyable in-flight entertainment choices and that delicious ham sandwich, I would choose to fly with United in a heartbeat! Thank you United, from Beijing to Newark it was a great flight, for 13 hours things literally flew by! Unieesha, B!

The Friendly Skies!

Joseph Harrison

Friday, 29 November 2019

Beijing’s Twilight Hutong Scene!

So, after taking care of a few things after my Lost Plate Breakfast Hutong Tour, I arrived at Yonghegong Lama Temple Subway Station for the Evening Hutong Food Tour. Meeting with Emily, my second tour guide and the rest of the group. Yes, my time keeping was equally as bad but thankfully it was fine. Getting into my rickshaw ride with my first beer felt amazing! Let's go! 

Driving away from the subway station into the dimly lit Hutong alleys gave me life for certain! After a short drive our gang of rickshaws arrived at our first stop of that Evening Hutong Food Tour with Lost Plate Tours. The restaurant felt cosy and we were made to feel very welcome, their speciality dish was Zhang Jia noodles. I adore that Beijing noodle dish, I was straight in their with my chopsticks to finish the whole portion! The others in the group were brand new to China, for that reason they didn't know what to think about the dish but my taste buds were loving life! Emily, our guide was friendly and she was able to recount the local features of the restaurant as a Beijinger, she knew what she was talking about! Leaving that endearing noodle house behind us, it was back on the road towards the second stop of the tour. Yet again the tourists from America in the group were fascinated about my life here in China. Go B! 

Sitting down within the second restaurant allowed the group to get to know each other more, we had a quieter corner and the passing of the dishes was a great opportunity to talk with each other. People hailed from the USA, Ireland and myself being from England it was nice to have a familiar Irish neighbour at the table. The Chow Mein like filling worked so well within the soft pancake that we wrapped as if it was a baby in a blanket. The sautéed aubergine was cooked so well it almost tasted like potatoes because it had such a crispy texture, definitely a plus! Our second stop was set within a former Hutong dwelling where two rooms were actually being rented our for local living whilst we sat in the adjoining restaurant. I was so glad in that moment that I had four hours or so between the two tours as to let the mornings treat digest before hitting the Hutong during the twilight hours! Honestly, truly it was going to be another tasty affair with Lost Plate Food Tours! Another beer, please Em?

Going back out into the Hutong night scene it was apparent that we were away the tourist trap alleys, we wouldn't frequenting those during that night tour. Word on the street was that the area of the Hutong we saw was so clean and well secured because President Xi's mother-in-law was supposedly living in the vicinity! The others had spent little to no time in China, their experience with Chinese toilets wasn't too good but with Emily's quick thinking the ones we found were spotlessly clean! I was loving the detail on the door fronts that we passed between the second stop, the nighttime Hutong view had me loving Beijing even more! I had only ventured into the Hutong's once before around the Gulou area, only hipster style views on show! Nothing pretentious or shiny was on show for us, the Hutong alleys looked modern but they retained their ancient charm with their door fronts on-point! No, we didn't need Gulou at all B!

Back into the rickshaws it was time for us to drive through the city streets to reach our third location. I had met some people that morning during the Breakfast Hutong Tour who had were on the evening tour the night before, after hearing about their experiences I knew that the food would be delicious and the beverages of a certain kind would be flowing! So far I had met another group of interesting people but with that Irish connection it was easier to talk with them compared with the people from the morning tour, it was a cultural thing! But being a current Beijing expat I helped those American tourists during the morning, I was still gracious. No shade intended! The noodles from the first stop were just as good like my Beijing kindergarten serves their own version at lunch time. The second stop served us a delight addition, with the local area feeling humble and nothing like the lights that the tourists see! No, I don't really drink Baijiu, but I wasn't going to say no to a shot!

The roads in China are generally not a place for the faint-hearted, with a few twists and turns we arrived at our third venue. Being a Halal establishment it wasn't a place for boozing but that wasn't case at all, also dubbed as a men only environment I definitely scouted for the looks as we stepped into that lively testosterone filled eatery! I'm not a stranger to Halal food in China made my the minority people from West China but the tourists in our grew were being schooled that night! Seated upstairs it was great to see a family with more than one child enjoying their Saturday. One couple were making me laugh to myself, the husband was enjoying his drinks whilst his lady wife was not having any of his antics! Spirits were high, the beers were flowing and that helped the conversations as things became more relaxed the banter within the group made us all laugh out loud! Emily brought a bottle of Baijiu to the table!

Before we toasted with our Beijing Baijiu shots we tucked into our beef parcels, damn they were so delicious! Yes, those shots went down a treat! The male orientated venue reminded me of my former Beijing nightspots where its sometimes impossible to spot women! Getting back into the rickshaws it was onto out final eating place for the night, I listened to Emily speak to the driver and it sounded like we were going to have something that was barbecued. Yes, our modern Inner Mongolian barbecue served us some amazingly tasty beef with potatoes and mushrooms. Finding ourselves within a former factory setting, we all walked in a bar that by some miracle sold a fresh pulled pint of cider! Taking our seats I minded my business because the cider had me sipping like my life depended upon it! With the jet-lagged few needing their bed, the first members of the group left for their hotels. I made my night with a few more pints of cider, what a wonderful tour that Saturday night!

Marry The Night!

Joseph Harrison 

Monday, 25 November 2019

Beijing's Hutong Breakfast Club!

Uncharacteristically early on a heavily polluted Saturday morning, I found myself in a taxi that was bound for my first food tour of the day set within Beijing's Fuchengmen Hutong's. Even thought I was running a little bit late that was all going to be fine, the timings of that food itinerary were flexible with Lost Plate Food Tours! Of course, I was the only expat in the group! 

Meeting Kelly, my guide for the mornings Hutong breakfast tour felt like such a relief. Thankfully two additional people were yet to arrive before the tour could commence. Being a birthday treat, I had used some money to book tour of Lost Plate Food Tours in Beijing to get the best of the Hutong's before my 2020 move to Ningbo. The first foodie stop was only around the corner, taking our seats in a former temple like building we waited for our first slices of a Beijing breakfast. We all tried a series of weird tasting Beijing snacks, each obscured tasting bite held secrets from Beijing's past! I really enjoyed the cake-like treat because it wasn't so sweet. The fermented mung bean soup was definitely an acquired taste indeed, amongst such surroundings I wholeheartedly took the liberty to shock my tastebuds! The tour was just getting started, in the best way my Chinese was coming through amongst the tourists! More food, please! 

The second stop found us standing in front of a glass-fronted cookout, three local cooks were preparing some tasty Chinese pastry like bakes! In full view for all to see, the wooden surface was spotlessly clean with fresh looking produce being used to make the beef filled delights. Kelly kindly ordered one bake each for us to sample, the cooks were amused to see us, a gaggle of foreigners who were excitedly taking photos! Taking my first bite into the super hot pastry bake gave me so much, that beefy pastry snack had be fooled, no I wasn't eating anything made by Greggs! Connecting me with a familiar home treat from Great Britain, the second call during that breakfast foodie tour left me with high expectations for the next stop as we entered the winding alleys of the aged Hutong's that chilly Saturday morning. It was nice knowing the city, giving advice to the American's who were visiting Beijing for the first time felt good. That beef bake set me up for the tour! It was so very 好吃 B!

The alleys gradually became more narrower as we made our way into the Hutong area. I had been to Beijing's Hutong's many times before that Saturday morning but with my time getting shorter before my move I wanted to appreciate every single second! Admiring the doorways that individually told their own version of events to us, I was living for that! Our third foodie stop presented itself as Kelly ushered us into a small and local feeling family run cafe sized restaurant that was deep within the Fuchengmen Hutong. Ordering the soy milk had me slurping away like nobody was watching, the fried Youtiao served a familiar taste of life in China! The savoury tasting tofu bowl wasn't something that I would usually order because it wasn't like the sweeter variant that I had tried during my visit to Hong Kong, but it was all for the experience! Yes, the sweet doughnut like loveliness went down a treat with the soy milk! OK!

Catching my breath and keeping it together, the food consumed during the first part of the Lost Plate Food Tour was very tasty indeed! Kelly our guide was very informative, asking me questions about my life in China and testing my Chinese language skills kept things amusing, I tired my best to sound like a local! Things were chilled yet we kept to the schedule, the recent sit down breakfast food had almost filled some of the people in the group but I was raring to go! Stopping for a freshly made Jianbing pancake was the one, the lady had put quite a lot of spice in my Beijing made Tianjin style all day Breakfast pancake even though Kelly had asked for it mild. I wasn't mad because I don't mind the occasional spice, that bite-size Hutong treat was just the ticket! That Saturday morning, the Hutong dwellers were busy out doing their bits and bobs whilst we were eating everything that was in our path! For all the food that was being consumed, it was surely a case of 'money well spent!'

The busy Hutong scene around us was going off, people were out and about with their Saturday business to take care of! A real sense of Beijing could be felt that morning, being in the outer-bowels of the city's sixth ring road, it can be easy for me to forget what the beating heart of a city actually feels like! Before our Jianbing's Kelly had bought us a fresh mandarin orange, it was the perfect snack to clear my palette before the final foodie stop of our Breakfast Hutong tour that morning. Going a few paces over the way we found ourselves outside a whole in the wall, selling cured Halal meat it was a business that had a real sense of normality. To keep it real, one of the group members talked the talk but he wasn't willing to try the more delicate parts of the final snack. Staying true to the mornings theme I tried several parts of the Halal cured snack, it was just another day in China. Oh, I needed room for the evening tour!

Walking for a few seconds we found ourselves outside a noodle shop, that was actually the final foodie stop of the tour! Cramming inside the thankfully warm noodle shop, we were served a taster of the noodles to try. The shop stood as a firm favourite in the local area, prospering from healthy trading during the working hours of the workers from the nearby office buildings. Leaving a long queue behind us, the local people could continue with their noodle quest without six foreigners taking the tables up. Stumbling upon a lovely coffeeshop that was set within a rather modern feeling Hutong building served up a lovely hot Chai Latte for me! The Breakfast tour had concluded, it had filled me up with the numerous stops that fed me up, the knowledge acquired helped me understand Beijing's unique Hutong asset. From the history behind the fermented soup at the beginning to the concluding slice of modernity, it was an education! Thank you to Kelly and also Lost Plate Food Tours!

Breakfast Done Beijing!

Joseph Harrison 

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Itaewon, Seoul: After Hours!

It's no secret that during Seoul's after hours period it can get crazy, only experiencing the weeknights during my 2018 Golden Week left me wanting much more! Celebrating the birth of my first born nephew, I booked a return flight and a bed in a hostel for my birthday weekend to Seoul, South Korea! Only packing my rucksack, I took off, bound for the lights of Itaewon!

Landing with a wild plan, Gimpo Airport greeted me with a friendly welcome after my years absence from South Korea. Not going to lie, it felt weird standing in Seoul because the last part of the peninsula I had been in was the DPRK. Hitting the Seoul Subway, it didn't take long before a sea of gorgeous South Korean menfolk were in my sights! Itaewon grew ever closer, a foreigner friendly enclave within Seoul's buzzing city scene that had a colourful hill that I planned on returning to that night. Checking into my G Guesthouse hostel dorm, how the walk from the station had me all nostalgic, I never realised until that moment how much I had missed the uncomplicated cool vibe of that South Korean sub-district! With things feeling correct I headed out for food, I needed to prepare myself for the nights antics that lay ahead of me. No sweet talking, I was on the pull because those guys had me feeling excited! Go!

Walking down memory lane, I found the same place that I had enjoyed some pre-session food back on the first night that I was in Seoul! Getting my chicken tikka goodness devoured, I ensured I would be able to be consuming those beverages and then some! Zaffran served me the same honest Middle Eastern food, not costing much I was still quids in for those drinks on the hill. I was feeling all kinds of love for Itaewon and Seoul itself as I walked around the hilly commercial centre, those winding streets with their Korean signs had me in the right space! Beijing being only a short flight over the sea, I had to take that chance! The random decision to book those flights on the night my nephew was born was the right choice, Owen knew it was the right thing to do! Having only been in Seoul for around three hours or less I was living my very best, I was high on life during that early evening moment before any drinks had been seen off! In the land of a certain liquor, I needed my first Soju!

Walking into the same convenience store that I had before on that fatefully amazing night back in 2018 had to be in my 2019 return! Heading straight for the booze, the fridge filled with alcoholic drinks had to be my destination! Getting my first Soju with a grapefruit flavour was my chosen tipple, I needed that drink! Handling the Korean Won felt mad, everything is in thousands and in China I use mobile apps to pay for everything so I needed to be extra mindful with my money. That was before the booze hit! Getting back to the hostel, it was time to make myself look fresh for the night that lay ahead of me! Suited and booted with my H&M black over-sized tee, skinny blue jeans with my black boots to complement the look! 29 was feeling damn good, not stressed by that extra number I was ready for Seoul's Homo Hill to serve everything to me and much more! Being early I still wanted to get everything started! Yes!

Hitting the first bar, I figured out people didn't surface till 1 am, I realised fast that I needed to run the night by my own rules! Heading over the road, I returned to 'Always Homme' to recapture one of those places that I had visited first time back in 2018, it felt removed and if truth be told I wanted to run to the lights of the bar over the road. Finding a seat at the bar inside 'Why Not?', I changed my drinks from beer to something stronger! The Long Island Ice Tea got me in my stride, followed by a Pina Colada or two that got me in the mood for dancing! Homo Hill was popping during that late night moment, it was difficult to see women because 99% of the custom was made up with men. Those Korean beauties were looking mighty fine that Saturday night! Was I looking for some fun that night? Had I got on plane for just a drink? No, I knew what I wanted to do! The drinks were going down well, the North Korean moisturiser I had on got me serious compliments! Did I look 23, for real B?

ID? In my four years of living in China I had never ever been asked for any form of identification! Thankfully, I managed to find my provisional drivers license in my bag, disaster averted for sure! After successfully gaining entry into 'Queen' it had to be another Pina Colada! The guys were looking fine, little did I know I was getting my life before a K-POP storm! South Korean queens filled into 'Queen' without any warning as the music changed from western to the camp choreographed anthems of todays Korean music icons! I got myself onto the raised platform to dance alongside the flaming hot talent, those Korean queens knew the dance routines to those hit South Korean pop jams. In a pleasant state I danced along to that catchy beat as if my life depended on it! Even if it was for one night only I was going to enjoy every moment! From touching down into Gimpo that afternoon, it had all been amazing! Seoul gave me life!

Knowing that the drinks had been consumed for the night, also I had danced for a respectable amount of time, but I knew one more venue had to be frequented before calling it a night! Going into the dark, I wasn't going into the unknown because I had played tricks there before. Knowing what I wanted had to be known, the weeknights had been quieter so I had the pick of the bunch and it wasn't like the venue I had been to recently in Singapore. Nevertheless, I knew the night would bring the right stuff for me and all of that debauchery. No shady business was going to go down, no poor choices that time because I had my head together in that darkened moment. I enjoyed those close twilight interactions but knew deep down I had gotten my fill, getting my things together I made my way back to the hostel with a clear conscience. I had a flight to catch later that day, I had to keep some kind of consciousness! Making my Asiana Airlines flight to Beijing hours later, the nights trip had been ace!

Oh Soju!

Joseph Harrison 

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & Jingshan Park...

Taking my time, I knew that saving Beijing’s top governmental and historical sights would be worth my wait. Trusting China Highlights once again allowed me to keep things right on schedule, teamed with a knowledgeable guide that made it feel like a breeze within the madness of Tiananmen Square! With all the commotion it did seem rather hectic! Was Tiananmen sacred?

Meeting my tour guide Cactus at Qianmen subway station at the agreed time allowed me to begin my Tiananmen experience. The post Golden Week crowd levels were just as high that Saturday even though the holiday had finished. The mausoleum of Mao Zedong stood before me, I didn't fancy visiting that imposing part of Beijing's Tiananmen because I had done my bit in North Korea, that's enough leaders in state for me! The sheer magnitude of people that were busying around Beijing's most famous governmental point of interest had me feeling that their visit was a big deal! The National Museum of China stood before, I didn't feel the need to visit that museum to see the exhibits because it was quick trip. Some young people asked me for a photo together, I politely declined in Chinese. Tiananmen's immense feeling and craze made me feel like I was in the true capital of the country! Yes, that Beijing moment had arrived!

The whole of China had recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, the formation that consists of modern China that was established in 1949. The elaborate military parade caused quite a stir, closing businesses and even my school down before the festivities commenced in October 2019. My flight to Singapore was pushed forwards three hours because of the military airshow that forced the airport to close down during the morning and part of the afternoon. Standing amongst the crowds I wasn't the only person in my tour during that late morning period, a British family had joined so it was interesting to tell them the in's and out surrounding life in China as a working foreigner. Back to the square, I had never quite seen such a frenzy in one place before, people seemed like Tiananmen meant so much as if it was a sight of pilgrimage! I, myself stood in awe of the imposing buildings that Beijing is so famous for. Those guards were frozen!

Known as the 'Gate of Heavenly Peace', the commonly known 'rostrum' hosts the world famous portrait of Mao Zedong. I won't go into the life and times during Mao's era but having the chance to see that portrait solidified my time spent in Beijing. The motto of the 'republic' could be seen with all of its red and white glory, the less mentioned about its meaning the better. The sense of patriotism that could felt in the heavily polluted air that afternoon was amazing, people were living their best lives according to their 'China Dream!' I took the whole experience as I found it, standing there in that moment felt like I had achieved something special because this focal point held the same precedence Buckingham Palace does for those who identify as 'Royalists' in the United Kingdom. It stood as a true symbol of China. Having took me two years to get there, it had been certainly worth the wait! Yes, Beijing's true staple!

In essence, Tiananmen Square proved the buzz I was expecting it to have with the droves of Chinese tourists and overseas alike. Moreover, the devotion from the Chinese visitors stirred a certain question in my mind. A certain party known as the CCP still stands at the forefront of the vast Beijing governmental square with the hearts and minds of the visitors following the cause. I really found that part quite interesting and utterly bizarre in the same sense, there was a lot to comprehend and to take in that afternoon. In a sense Tiananmen Square and its famous rostrum possessed a rather domineering feel with the party commanding the attention and the presence of guards had everybody walking in the right direction, minding their behaviour at all times! After some research it was said that the portrait of Mao Zedong had been replaced before the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China was founded. Being part of a tour made things easier for the security was tight!

Passing through the 'Gate of Heavenly Peace' allowed us to enter the Forbidden City. Once home to the previous emperors throughout China's many dynasty's, this gargantuan palace housed the ever-changing Chinese imperial family until the fall of the Qing Dynasty. The maddening crowds grew ever more as myself and the small group tour approached the 'Gate of Supreme Harmony'. Upon entering the 'Gate of Supreme Harmony' the wide palace centre impressed me much! In my minds eye I imagined the closing scene during Disney's Mulan, if only a gaggle of crossdressers in imperial Chinese dress shuffled through before me, we can have our dreams! Capturing the photo on the left wasn't too much of a chore, the crowd flowed nicely so the photo didn't have an overloaded feel. Funnily enough it was another correct Beijing feeling felt that day! If truth be told I wanted to run away to take more photos, of course I did just that!

Learning a lot about the Forbidden City's history impressed me much, the common people that surrounded the closed city were in fact barred from visiting the palace completely. The changing emperors all shared one recurring passion to keep concubines, sounding like some line-up a gentleman's club the concubines would all line up ready to be picked out by the emperor. The race to produce an heir fell onto the wives and concubines of the many emperors who lived within the walls of the Forbidden City, nowadays in China families don't frown upon having girls born instead of boys. The interesting stories had me gripped, I wanted to know more! As we made our way through the main part of the Palace Museum, it was apparent that a lot of the design had been dictated by number sequences, those door-knob formations had me all confused. Even though the interior of the buildings were closed, the exterior told enough of as story. Perfectly, my Beijing day was falling into place!

Crossing the intersection from the Northern Gate allowed us to reach Beijing's Jingshan Park, entering without any hassle it was time climb to the very top. Fun fact, once the moats had been dug out that surrounded the Forbidden City, the soil was used to create the hill at the said Beijing park. Climbing to the top of Beijing's Jingshan Park should've given the picture postcard view over the Forbidden City but with the polluted skies creating a hazy mist I was served something completely different. I tried to look at the hazy view as if it had a sense of mystery, with a little editing I have come to terms with the photo captured to the right. The walk up was something else, leaving me breathless it wasn't just the smoggy air that had been short of breath during that afternoon of Beijing delights. Would I return to take a less hazy photo? No, it was the true way I was meant to see it! Not feeling bitter, it was time to finish things.

From those first crowds whilst I waited at Qianmen for Cactus, to the steep incline to the top of Jingshan Park the day had been a success! The feeling of Tiananmen Square gave me all the governmental realness that I had been longing to witness, that Beijing open square had got the power for sure! I was polite, opting out to that that street selfie! The strong fabric of a certain party had the crowds transfixed by a certain portrait. I was true to my calm, I didn't want to see museum exhibits nor see leaders in state because I just didn't feel that was meant for my Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City day. The pollution may have belted down on Beijing, suffocating the skies above the Forbidden City from the peak of Jingshan Park, in the end the world still turns. The afternoons itinerary was just enough and worth the price, I was impressed! Heading back to Shunyi, it had been like medicine to go back into the city after my Golden Week hiatus. Beijing's Tiananmen chapter is now closed.

Pollution Galore!

Joseph Harrison 

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Category Is... Marina Bay, Singapore!

By some miracle I got up before a reasonable hour to see Singapore's famous Merlion within its legendary Marina Bay. Feeling delicate, memories of Dorothy's and Backstage were hazy but that Malay barman was hotter than hell! Those tourists had me paying no mind to their noise, those views SIN! Watching Singapore work it out and then some, the category was Marina Bay! 

Fully embracing my last full day in Singapore, I headed out of my Chinatown comfort zone to explore more of Singapore's Downtown Core. Trusting the city state's flawless MRT system left me front the city's Padang, maybe a reminder of the colonial introductions of cricket to Singapore? Anyhow, I hadn't got tickets to a show that day but I wanted to at least pass through the Esplanade theatre complex to kick start my Marina Bay experience. Walking over the Queen Elizabeth Walk afforded me my first glimpses of the ocean wide opulence of Singapore's Marina Bay! Living for the views of Marina Bay Sands, that hotel residence required the coins but I was having an equally exquisite experience during that Marina Bay moment! As I grew nearer to SG's iconic Merlion the tourists mounted, the selfie sticks tripled but my chilled state of mind stayed present, that hysteria wasn't going to get me heated! Get it!

Snatching the moment, I successfully captured Singapore's Merlion water feature symbol! Taking every single view of Marina Bay in was quite a challenge, getting it together I accomplished that task with ease. The modernity impressed me much, Singapore's own Merlion propelled a constant water fountain motion back into the waters of the Singapore River. Content with my snap, I had a good chuckle to myself for all of the comedy shots that were occurring! I didn't have time to look like I was drinking a fountain of water, I had consumed enough beverages the previous night! Amused by those tourists from a familiar Far Eastern country, I paid attention to their commitment to their holiday conceptual photos! How I had life from that scene! Keeping it authentic I felt truly blessed to be in that moment, the work to pay for that Singapore Airlines flight had taken some working! Appreciating the view not the photography skills of those crazy tourists! Come on Merlion, let's get sickening S! 

I was quite hungry, the Singaporean humidity didn't impressed my semi-hungover self, I need some Hor Fun and an Iced Milo! After following the marina's path towards the 'Gardens by the Bay' I found Lau Pa Sat! Fabricated in Glasgow, Scotland during the early 1800's as Singapore's early British era boomed, Lau Pa Sat acted as a Victorian style fish market. Marvelling at the iron clad structure of Lau Pa Sat, it was mental to be within a modern CBD with towering glass and steel structures that made that Singaporean hawker centre look like the 'Black Country Museum' Peaky Blinders set as if it was set within the shadows of London's Canary Wharf Business District! Taking my seat, I opted for the duck Hor Fun rice dish, to drink I needed two ice cold Milo O's to quench my thirst! The food and drink that was consumed definitely hit the spot without any reservations! Being early I missed the office types, it was chilled! Milo O!

One thing that staggered me about Singapore, I quickly found myself in an accomplished state because that city state was only pint-sized! That morning had been very productive, catching a glimpse of the Padang allowed me to see the lawns being relaid. The transport system stepped up once again, I only had my GPS, getting to the smooth edges of the Esplanades theatre complex felt correct. The world city vibe had me living, Marina Bay set the cat amongst the pigeons for sure! Getting on the right path I found the right food and quiet settings within Downtown's Lau Pa Sat hawker centre. My final day in Singapore flowed well, even though the hangover had me a little I was on the level to find the right food and cold non-alcoholic drink! By the time I got to Lau Pa Sat the tourists had disappeared, the local flavour of my meal had me in a completely different zone. The morning saw me bring the productivity but after seeing Marina Bay's Merlion and Lau Pa Sat, I needed a little rest! 

I used my Singapore MRT card for the final time, I headed out of my capsule hotel before dusk to find Singapore's Gardens by the Bay. Being completely free admission I was looking forward to seeing a spectacular sight for free! With flawless signage I made my way to the main gardens, feeling like I was in a scene from Disney's Avatar, I loved every second of that amazing dusk experience within Singapore's Gardens by the Bay. Taking my time to take the best photo, I loved seeing the people from above walk around the elevated walkway. The majestic and mystical feeling of the gardens gave me so much life, leaving me with such wonderful memories of my time spent in Singapore. As the crowds grew larger I knew that it was perfect timing to vacate the area, I wasn't about a crush during that lovely lit location. Content with my Gardens by the Bay experience it was time to return to C-town for tasty satay skewers! 

Leaving the Downtown Core behind me, I headed back to Chinatown for the final time for some chicken and beef skewers before going to bed. I had such a lovely day, the whole Marina Bay Area had impressed me a lot. I was content with my photos and had experienced such lovely pre-night time views at the Gardens by the Bay, I felt blessed to be in Singapore. Chinatown kept me on the right path during the final night, the skewers and one Bulmers Cider left me feeling fulfilled. Bypassing any distractions I retreated back to my hostel, leaving the day behind I took days moments to my dreams that night. I knew that my early flight required me to be sensible, I needed to keep that long haul flight safeguarded. That final day had be in all the right places at the right time, I had taken my time appropriately to see the three points of the day within a chilled space of time. Yes, indeed Singapore's Downtown Core had showcased some serious references that the category has to be Marina Bay! 

Next Category...

Joseph Harrison 

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Singapore: Rollin' On The River!

Singapore took me back to the river, I knew that I wasn't looking for a ghost but remnants of S'pore's past motivated my visit! Taking certain colonial talking point into consideration, I embraced the waters of the Singapore River that October day. Keeping those British colonial vibes present, a fort like park had to be explored but all I really wanted was a Singapore Sling! 

Bright and early I made my way to S'pore's Fort Canning Hill to learn more about its early British colonial features and its later fortification. Perched on a prime piece of land, the height of Fort Canning Hill gave the British contingent the seclusion that was required during the early days of British rule after the Singapore Treaty had been signed. Home to one of Raffles former residences, I opted not to visit that lavish white building that was currently featuring the Bicentennial exhibition. Backtracking for a moment, the hike up to the top of Singapore's fort like park wasn't difficult because escalators made the ascent very easy indeed. The humidity hadn't quite reached fever pitch during that Singaporean October morning, I could sense the rain would be pouring on down. Captured to the left is the Gate of Fort Canning, if truth be told I wasn't worried about the details. The British Empire's issue, not mine GB!

Making my way through the once fortified settlement, the park in modern day time served a lushness with its rich variety of plant life. Was I close to the Singapore River? Yes, after I read the exhibits further that were dotted around the area outside the southern side of the fort gate I learned that this now park has been inextricably linked to the Singapore River that flowed not so far from that lush location. Descending from the peak of the hill I stumbled across a sloped lawned area, it reminded me of a Victorian botanical garden. I would be telling a massive lie if I said I wasn't looking for nuggets of information about the formative years of Singapore as a British colony. Fort Canning Hill allowed me to see something that emulated the former rulers of this city state. In present day, Fort Canning Hill stands as a reminder but more importantly a park, the history only remains for Singapore has stood independent from Britain since 1963. Reaching lower land, it was time to find those waters!

Singapore's Downtown Core allowed me to see the contrast between its British colonial buildings that stood beside the towering modern structures that currently dominate the city states own skyline. After catching a glimpse of the striking statue of Sir Stamford Raffles, I knew that I had arrived at my intended spot. On the banks of the Singapore River that stood before me, Sir Stamford Raffles docked along that spot on the 28th of January 1819. With his English Victorian attire carved into such a striking statue, it was easy to tell that Raffles was a well to do man during his time. Personally as an Englishman I felt quite proud that I was standing in the same place that Raffles statue stood, as Raffles negotiated his first treaty during that initial ten day visit after his first landing along the Singapore River. I don't know the nature as to how Raffles handled that deal, leaving our nationalities as the only similarity.

The backdrop served an almighty contrast, with two story riverside structures that functioned as upmarket bars and restaurants that were dwarfed by a whole host of skyscrapers. History states that Singapore was a modest fishing village before Britain's Sir Stamford Raffles steered his vessel into the Singapore, amongst his contemporaries Raffles helped push Singapore into world renowned trading hub way back when. Don't quote me, I'm not a historian whatsoever! Nevertheless, the opening up of Singapura impressed me much with the many minds and cultures that helped shape such a powerhouse of diversity and flavour.  I had covered a lot of ground during that mornings pursuit, keeping things simple the super convenient street signs and GPS capabilities I was navigating my way around Singapore's Downtown Core without any issues. After the intermittent showers, the sky turned a beautiful blue shade that was very much appreciated! Singapore, I'm not religious but!

Set amongst the bustling Downtown Core, the land that St. Andrew's Cathedral stands on was always instead to house a house of worship. Set aside as part of Raffles's Town Plan of 1822, an Anglican Cathedral was first constructed in 1835 to conduct its fist service two years later in 1837. I'm not religious but the legacy and story behind St. Andrew's stood in that moment as the lasting legacy during the time of Sinagpore's time as a British Colony. I am no saint but I always respect photography within churches, temples and mosques unless rules permit photos, lets just say I wasn't surprised to see a certain group of East Asian tourists blatantly disregard that rule as I peered inside the entrance of Singapore's own Anglican Cathedral. Knowing I was being respectful I had a good look into the service that was taking place in that moment, respect is due in such places regardless of religious beliefs. So, was something from Coventry?

The first cathedral constructed wasn't going to last forever, St. Andrew's eventually was rebuilt with a gothic style in mind. The reconstruction was powered by the labour of Indian convict labourers under the laws of Singapore's British imperial rule. Here's where the Coventry connection comes into play, the 'Coventry Cross' that supports the pulpit was crafted from the three silver-plated iron nails from the ruins of the 14th Coventry Cathedral that was destroyed during World War II. During my visit to Singapore I was amazed to see houses of worship from four different faiths, ranging from Little India's Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple to Kampong Glam's own Masjid Sultan. Singapore's Anglican connection made my East Asian location feel as it did when I saw HK's St. John's Cathedral, another Victorian era place of worship. Singapore's religious diversity impressed me much, I'm not religious but all the same the variety was impressive to see. I wanted that S'pore Sling!

My accommodation choice whilst I was staying was basic but worked for me perfectly. On the other price range, some prefer to stay at Singapore's world famous Raffles Hotel. Connected to the hotel I wanted to have a drink or two at the world famous 'Long Bar'. Famed for being the founding bar that created the Singapore Sling, a cocktail that I had to try for myself! Waiting in the queue, it didn't take a fool to see why Singapore's 'Long Bar' was causing such a damn commotion. Set within Singapore's famous Raffles Hotel it was the closest I was going to get to that premium world renowned hotel. I took my seat at the bar within Singapore's own 'Long Bar' to order the original sling to try all for myself! Upon first tasting my first Sling I loved the gin and cherry combination! Taking all of the views and busy pace of service in, I marvelled at the operation the barman executed to make those signature cocktails! Tasty!

Enjoying the monkey nuts I wasn't going to be one of those people who brushed all of the shells onto the floor, that's just not my style. The first drink turned into the second and with the gin hitting me a little bit I opted for a third and final Singapore Sling because when it comes to tasty drinks I don't have any self control! The service charge almost got me, thankfully I had enough money to spare for that third and final mixed Singaporean drink! My experience at Singapore's 'Long Bar' was brilliant, if not pricey I loved every sip of the world famous Singapore Sling within the very venue that it was founded. Backtracking a little bit before finding the 'Long Bar' at the Raffles Hotel, I had found Singapore's own Marks & Spencer's food market! A slice of England had me wanting more of those pig like treats! Getting myself a bag of Percy Pigs had to be done! The Singapore Sling wouldn't exist without the flowing movements of the Singapore River! Yes S, my morning of adventure was well worth it!

Singapore's Almighty River!

Joseph Harrison