A Travellerspoint blog

Paris

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As we arrived in Paris, we were walking down a street towards our hotel and I (Lindsay) remember looking around and thinking what has Sean got us into. The streets were filthy, graffiti everywhere and an argument between 50-60 people that appeared to be heading in the wrong direction very quickly. All Sean kept saying to the 3 of us was that this was the up and coming neighborhood; “you know where all the artists and musicians live”. As he led us further and further away from the train station, we all kept looking at each other and wondering if we needed to head back the way we came. I (Sean) knew the whole time that this was a great neighborhood and that everyone just had to trust me. Granted it is hard to convince people on how good a neighborhood is until they can see it with their own eyes. As our walk continued, it became apparent to all involved that staying in the neighborhood of Montmartre was the right decision. We arrived at our stylishly French looking hotel, with its metal railings protecting small balconies and holding flower pots draping blossoms of the reddest reds and pinkest pinks. Lindsay was in love already. The windy cobblestone streets, bustling bars and various eateries were a barrage on the senses. We ate our first meal at the tiniest of restaurants where we sat on a “patio” on the street itself. When they say that French food is rich, they really mean rich, but at the same time, not overdone as some north American French restaurants tend to do. After dinner we headed up the hill towards Sacre Coeur. This was the first real monument in Paris we saw and it was even more stunning at night. Our first taste of French architecture drew us in quickly. It was a great contrast compared to how the day started, but it was the perfect ending.

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Our second day in France was a long one. We started early by taking the metro to The Eiffel Tower. As we attempted to beat the crowds by our early start, the lineups remained. We luckily didn’t have to wait too long and we blasted our way to the top of the world, or so it seemed. The views we saw from that high up were quite spectacular on that sunny, blue sky day.

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We then decided to check out the city of Versailles and the Versailles Palace and grounds. To put it simply, this palace was immense. Walking towards it on the huge cobble stone walkway, the shimmering gold that coats the main gates blinded us as we tried to look closer at the intricacies of this marvelous wonder. It’s truly a piece of art, filled to the brim with pieces of stunning artwork. Every room we walked through told a different story of King Louis or Mary Antoinette. The Hall of Mirrors, a room filled with sparkling chandeliers and mirrors covering the walls is where parties were held looking out over the manicured gardens. The King and Queen’s bedrooms had immaculate drapery and linens throughout, which had us craning our necks from floor to ceiling in awe.

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As we walked through the royal gardens, we were lucky enough to find Mary Antoinette’s hamlet which she had built for the royal family, just to “get away from it all”. Almost like a vacation destination, but still within the royal compound. It was an amazing day and all of us were quite pleased when we could finally put our feet up for the train ride home!

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Day three found us touring more of Paris and some of the famous monuments. Our first stop was the Arc de Triomphe, a massive arch structure situated in the middle of one of the largest traffic circles in the world. It looks like mayhem watching the cars below circle around and around! We then made our way down the Champs Elysees, a street truly made for the rich and famous with gold plated cars and the most expensive shops lining the sides.

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This road led us to the Louvre, a museum within a palace in the middle of Paris. We entered through the glass pyramid in the middle of the courtyard and found ourselves in a maze of sculptures, statues, and paintings. We spent 2.5 hours there, with a small crowd as it was later at night, and we still only managed to see 1.5 floors of one section (there are 4 floors and 4 sections – so we barely touched the surface of what the louvre has to offer). You could easily spend days in this place. Some of the most impressive things we saw were the Egyptian sarcophaguses (or sarcophagi, depending on what dictionary you are using), a real wrapped mummy, statues from the Greek and Roman Empires, artifacts from Mesopotamia made 8000 years ago, Venice De Milo and of course, The Mona Lisa. We also found what appears to have been the worlds first selfie.

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Paris was one of the busiest cities we have ever visited. But the food, architecture, art, and above all the people made up for it. We simply do not understand how French people get such a bad rap for being rude. I know many people who have heard a story or may have actually experienced it, but we honestly only met kind and wonderful people who went out of their way to help and make us feel welcome. We both honestly feel that the people who live in this city, help make Paris great.

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Posted by BlondeandCurly 26.09.2014 14:44 Archived in France Comments (0)

What Happens in IBIZA Stays in IBIZA!

Beautiful beaches, warm, crystal clear water, an awe inspiring Castle, cute side streets, gorgeous yachts anchored at port, amazing food (especially the paella), 28 degree weather each and everyday. But there is one reason in particular, one ventures to this paradise and that is to experience the biggest and best nightclubs on earth. Clubs like Space, Amnesia, Privilege, & Pacha are consistently in the top 20 best nightclubs in the world. We are finding it hard to describe such an experience with words so we in turn feel pictures might tell some kind of story of beautiful Sunsets, Amazing Music, Lots of Dancing and how a few Drinks were mixed in for good measure.

Here is our Ibiza Adventure:

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AMNESIA w Chase and Status, Hannah Wants, Sander Van Doorn, Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano, Oliver Heldens, Pendulum

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IBIZA ROCKS HOTEL w 2Many djs

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SANKEYS w Dj Sneak, Sidney Charles & Darrius Syrossian

Unfortunately those drinks I spoke of earlier, may have hindered my ability to take actual photographs. Let me tell you though, it was a great night w a sloppy walk home.

PRIVILEGE (The worlds biggest Nightclub) for SupermartXe

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SPACE for We love Space (to many djs to mention)

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Thank you Ibiza.....It was ridiculously expensive and we all needed a week simply to recover, but it was an experience we wouldn't have had any other way.

Posted by BlondeandCurly 25.09.2014 13:44 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

London

Dancing with the Guards

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While we were landing at Heathrow Airport, I was hoping there would be families greeting loved ones everywhere, hugging, kissing and shouting all around, just like the opening scene in my favourite movie, Love Actually. In my heart of hearts though I knew this probably wouldn’t apply to us, as we lack any family members anywhere in Europe. Dark clouds covered the sky, rain was falling and every street we passed I was hoping Harry Potter would appear; it was exactly how I pictured this place! If you don’t already know me (Lindsay), you can probably tell that I am a huge movie buff with a huge imagination, but I regress. So exhausted from the overnight flight, we decided to push through and starts sightseeing as our days in London are very limited. We made it about 500m from our hostel in Central London and realized that the pounding rain and wind were simply too much for us. We conceded very quickly and returned to our hostel for some much needed shut eye.

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We awoke to clearing skies and a beautiful sunset. While we still had some daylight, we made our way quickly to Westminster Abbey, admiring Big Ben on our way, and Buckingham Palace, where we saw the Canada Gate and the Canadian War Memorial, put up to commemorate us helping Britain fight in the world wars. Attached to the war memorial was a vigil for the 3 RCMP officers killed in the line of duty in Moncton. It was such an amazing feeling to see the support of another country displayed alongside our memorial. There’s a special something about being across the world and feeling a certain pride for your country and its heroics, people and culture.

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After some sentimental pictures, we were fortunate enough to see the guards at Buckingham Palace, one of which was putting on a show for the tourists. Slowing down his walk, pirouettes all around and maybe the odd smile… he definitely put on a good show! Although, I think he may be getting reprimanded as I write this. We read an article stating that this guard is under investigation for not doing his job as he should. We sincerely hope he retains his position
Day 2 of London came early, about 5:30am! We didn’t want to stay bored in the hostel, so we got on the underground and found the London Bridge, the Tower Bridge and a cute, but extremely pricey little street where Sean stayed 12 years ago on his very first trip overseas. The canals meandering through the streets and the sailing boats (one I swear was made completely of gold!) nestled quietly along the docks made for an exciting early morning walk. Our next stop was the Tower of London, my first castle experience! We were fortunate enough to see the 100th anniversary of WWI memorial that had just been completed for the fallen soldiers of the war. Over 888,000 red ceramic poppies, one for each casualty, flowing from one of the Tower windows and completely blanketing the grass for which had once been used as a moat. It was quite overwhelming to look at the amount of poppies, the amount of red covering the ground, and to know that many men had lost their lives, fighting for the freedoms we have today.

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Once we were inside the castle, it was like we were brought back in time. Thick, stone walls protected us from any dangers outside, the portcullis ready to drop at any moment and tall towers to keep a look out. It was incredible to walk on the cobble stone roads that so many people have walked on, hundreds of years before. We were taken on a tour by a “Beef Eater”, the guards that have protected the monarchy since the 1400’s and still do today. Once the tour was done, we walked through the Bloody Tower, saw Traitors Gate where Queen Ann Boleyn was brought before her execution, the armoury, the torture chambers and The Crown Jewels. For my first castle experience, I had a great time, and although Sean had seen it before, I think he still learned a lot ;)

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Continuing with our long day, we finally reached The Globe Theatre and then St Paul’s Cathedral. These were our last stops of the day, even though it was only 3pm. Our first 8 hour tour day was gruelling, but worth it! This Globe theatre was built in 1994, which is the 3rd time The Globe had been built. It was built in a way to resemble the Shakespeare theatre of old. With the help of historians, every detail from the wood used to the thatched roof was reproduced, in order to make this theatre as real as possible. It even lacks a full roof and they clearly state that no shows have ever been cancelled due to rain and no umbrellas allowed.

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Our last day in London, after another siren filled, car honking, drunken bystander yelling night, was spent in the cutest little town called Windsor. The Queen lives here to this day and I was so excited that we actually got to see so much of the grounds. I was picturing what it would have been like many years ago when there were parties and celebrations held there. Not a leaf or flower out of place in the gardens, manicured lawns, ball gowns flowing, hide and seek in the countless amounts of rooms, princes and princesses, young love in the air… I’m sure Sean was imagining the same thing! We were lucky enough to watch the Changing of the Guards, which was more of a show that I had thought. There was a band and a lot of yelling and feet stomping, but very neat to watch.

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Well London, it wasn’t long but I’m sure we’ll be back another day. You wore us out and made us nap more than ever, but thank you for your remarkable history and the memories we made. Off to beach land!

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Posted by BlondeandCurly 05.09.2014 08:38 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (2)

Bali & Beyond

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We unfortunately have not posted since returning from our Asia Trip. We were unable to get to the blog while we finished the trip in Bali. As we are close to embarking on another adventure, we decided that it would be prudent to post our pictures and show everyone our experiences while visiting the islands of Bali and Gili T. For those of you who have read this blog in the past, you are well aware that some of our blog posts can be "lengthy". This will not be one of those. This post is made to illustrate our last 3 weeks in Asia through pictures and less from reading. We feel that no matter what we write down on this page, it will never be able to describe the pictures better then simply looking at them. We will say though that Bali and the Gili islands were one of our favorite destinations. The people were amazing and genuine, the food was good and the sites were so unique, that each new destination left us in awe. Each place on these islands has a different story to tell and a different way of life. We were blown away that an island that is 5,780 km² (about the same size as Prince Edward Island), could have so many diverse areas and sites to see. We thank you Bali for inviting us in and showing us your amazing landscape and outstanding character.

Kuta

Amazing surfing and even better Sunsets

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Ubud

Great Little Town with an Awesome Vibe. Great place to base yourself as you are super close to many great sites and temples. And it also has a monkey forest - Lindsays favorite.

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary

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Rice Fields

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Gunung Batur

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Gunung Kawi

One of the most beautiful Temples we have EVER seen!!

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Gili T

If you have ever wondered what it was like before tourism took over in places like Thailand and to some extent Bali, we feel like the Gili Islands are it. Don't get us wrong, they are still a tourist destination, however it has a sense of peace to it that is hard to find. No motorized vehicles, only accessible by boat, AMAZING sunsets, movie nights on the beach, you can walk the entire island in 2 hours (Gili T is the largest of the three) and the best part is lots of sun and even more BINTANG. The only thing we recommend is to buy your return ticket before you get to the island, or else you will pay for it. OOPS!!

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Jimbaran & Seminyak

Seminyak is along the same coast as Kuta, but is a bit farther north and has an older crowd. Another great base to explore the south and Tanah Lot.

Jimbaran

The best fresh seafood you will find in Bali. The fishermen go out all day, then bring in the days catch and serve it in restaurants spread out all along the beach. One of the best meals we have ever had.

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Pura Ulu Watu

Fantastic Temple on the side of a cliff. Gorgeous Views. Watch out for the monkeys as they steal anything and everything that isn't attached to you. We even watched one monkey open a bottle of water and drink from it!

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Tanah Lot

Great Temple. It's an island when the tide is in and only accessible once the tide recedes. Very Busy. If you go to the left of the temple and walk till you see a golf course, you get away from the crowds and have amazing, unobstructed views of Tanah Lot and the ocean.

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Bali was a great adventure for us. We will forever take with us all of things that we learned and all of the lessons that were thrust upon us. We say goodbye to these fantastic islands, but I am sure we will be back someday to explore all of the places that we missed on this trip.

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Posted by BlondeandCurly 11.08.2014 22:31 Archived in Indonesia Comments (2)

Singapore

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Prior to going on this trip, I cannot even remember how many times we hummed and hawed about going to Singapore. It wasn’t until about a month before the trip that we finally made an executive decision to make a stopover in Singapore for 2 days while travelling from Thailand to Bali. We also decided that because we were only going to be there for 2 nights and a hostel room can run you upwards of 100$/night with a shared bathroom, that we would splurge and book a room at the Marina Bay Sands; a nice change from staying in a guesthouse for the past 3.5 weeks. The interesting part about all of this is that even with all of the indecision about Singapore; it has ended up being one of the highlights of our trip.
For those of you that know me (Sean) well, this will simply be a review, but for those of you who know me but not that well, I am going to explain a few things to you. I, at times or quite frequently depending on if you talk to Lindsay, can be a little neurotic about certain things. I love cleanliness, I love order, I love rules and regulations and I always feel that everything has a right place. I am the type of person who likes to get “shit done”, with a plan, on time and done right the first time. I had heard stories about Singapore and its strict rules and regulations as well as its famous cleanliness. This sounds like my kind of city. However, I also heard some bad things like how their court system involves just a judge, no jury and if convicted of murder, drug trafficking or weapons smuggling, you are sentenced to death. There are also severe penalties for what we consider petty crimes such as graffiti or littering (i.e. jailed for up to 20 years or various forms of corporal punishment). I had also read that the cost of living is so high in Singapore (880,000$ for a condo) that we figured homelessness and poverty would be somewhat evident, especially in the downtown core. We must say however, everything that we expected to see was vastly different from our actual experience.
We landed at the Singapore airport, voted the #1 airport in the world. The airport was stunning, efficient and very clean. The bathrooms even had a TV screen as you exited with a picture of the bathroom cleaner and a touch screen review of the cleanliness of the facilities. Of course I gave the facilities a 10/10, as I have never been in a cleaner public bathroom. As most of you know, when leaving the Calgary airport, you are greeted with our brand new Airport Trail that leads to the “beautiful” Deerfoot Trail; a mishmash of brown open fields, industrial parks and concrete. Very appealing to visitors I’m sure. Since I live in Calgary and am so used to seeing this every time I head to or leave the airport, I didn’t expect much when leaving the airport in Singapore. I was very mistaken. I have never in my life seen a more beautiful road/highway. The middle median was made up of flower beds filled to the brim with brightly colored flowers, while the outside edges were strewn with gorgeous old trees whose branches extended over the road as if providing a roof in case it rained. Lindsay and I sat in absolute awe as we drove along this road. In fact it was actually a 6 lane highway that was more beautiful than Calgary’s own botanical gardens. It was honestly like being in Alice in Wonderland. Not one leaf out of place, not one dead flower and every hedge, trimmed to exactly the same height. It didn’t even seem real. We also found out from our cab driver that if there ever was an emergency at the airport, the city was attacked or their air force base was destroyed for some reason, within 10 minutes, all of the median flowers could be removed to accommodate the landing of fighter jets on particular sections of this highway. You know… just in case.
After the breath taking highway adventure, we finally arrived at the most expensive hotel we will ever stay at. You can see the enormity of this hotel while flying in the sky and as we drove the road of wonder we could see it towering in the distance. This hotel of course, if you haven’t googled it yet, is the Marina Bay Sands Hotel & Casino. The one with the infinity pool on the very top floor, overlooking the entire city, with cafés and restaurants bordering each side and a lookout that you can stand on which is basically floating on air…. yup that one. When the taxi driver dropped us off at entrance # 3, we were immediately greeted by 2 gentlemen who opened the doors and told us where to go to check in. This was a very nice gesture as once we entered this massive building; it was noticeable how easy it would be to get lost. The lobby extended so far that we could not even see the other entrances. Art work and sculptures filled the lobby with a modern décor and even though modern can feel cold, this was one of the most welcoming places we’d been. Our necks were sore from looking up, as the ceiling was endless, adding to the atmosphere of making us feel tiny. People were wandering about, the cafés and bakery shops bursting at the brim with people trying to get the last chocolate éclair; which, by the way, tasted amazing!

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Once we checked in, we were taken to our room and asked if we were scared of heights, which we both are, but laughed and said no anyways. We soon found out that the view from the 47th floor was quite spectacular and that indeed, we were both still scared of heights! When we booked this hotel we of course took the cheaper option and picked the “Garden View”. This view actually ended up being the better of the two sides as we looked down upon the massive structures that lie within the “Gardens by the Bay”. More on those later.

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As we settled in quickly to our new surroundings we both decided that the pool was the place to explore first. Up to the 57th floor and out to the deck we went. The view was incredible; skyscrapers across the little lake, huge hills behind miles of city structures, and the harbour with what seemed to be a thousand boats with the ocean that stretched on forever. It was hard to just look at one thing as our attention would immediately be drawn to something else off in the distance or down below. The pool extended almost the entire length of the hotel and there were trees and plants growing along the deck. It was quite hard to leave that view and eventually we had to come back later that night for some drinks and supper!

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Our whole plan of when we arrived in Singapore went out the door once we went to the pool. We originally wanted to leave the hotel to try to see however much of the city that we could. However, after the pool, we decided to check out the rest of the hotel and that was where we ended up staying for the rest of the day. For those of you who have been to Las Vegas, this hotel was like any hotel on the strip, except way larger. There were 3 floors and some of the most expensive clothing and jewellery stores in the world. Louis Vuitton even has its own store that you have to walk through a tunnel, under the harbour, to arrive at their personal floating building.

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Underneath the hotel there is a massive casino with multiple security checks. Since Singapore opened its first ever casino in 2010 (there are only 2 in the entire city) the security in the casino was as intense as it was at the airport. No fooling around there. I was told prior to going in that I could only wear my hat if I wore it forwards. Security is so tight we actually got in trouble for taking pictures inside. We never gambled though as the cheapest black jack table bet was $50.00 and we weren’t ready to spend that when it could buy us 3 meals! Instead we spent our 3 meal money on heading out to one of the world’s best nightclubs. Zouk; rated number 5 in the world only behind the massive legendary clubs of Fabric, Green Valley and a few that lie on that little island in Spain called Ibiza. We will simply end this by saying that I may have woken up with a bit of a headache and Lindsay with a stomach ache from eating all those very expensive pringles from the mini bar.

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After leaving our friends for 3 days, we reunited with 2 of them on our last day in Singapore. After showing them around and allowing them to get their bearings, we headed out that night hunting for some foodhawker stalls. Not far from the hotel on the other side of the harbour we found ourselves gorging on delicious Singapore, Indian, Chinese and Mixed favourites at a place called Gluttons Bay. As the name suggests, we ate until we couldn’t force anymore food down into our bursting bellies. It was actually kind of disgusting how much we ate that night, but it was one of the best meals on this trip and so worth it.

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Later that night we headed into the “Gardens by the Bay” (I told you I would get to it). The Gardens consist of 250 acres of reclaimed land just behind the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The Singapore government claim that this park is part of an attempt to better the quality of life of its citizens by changing from a Garden City to a City within a garden. There is no other way to describe this “garden” but absolutely breathtaking. We had a great view of the entire compound from our balcony, but we never imagined that it would look the way it did on the ground. In the middle of the gardens are these structures called “SuperTrees”, which at night light up and illuminate this park. It literally makes you feel as if you just landed on another planet. I know that this blog is a way to describe our experiences and create a picture of what we have seen, but for once we both honestly cannot find any words to describe what we saw. It was a crazy sight and it didn’t hurt that the massive Marina Bay Sands Hotel along with a full moon were in the background. We will leave it up to you to decide upon seeing the pictures how to best describe this park.

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Ultimately Singapore was a whirlwind adventure that unfortunately only lasted 2 days. The people of this city are some of the nicest and warmest I (Sean) have ever encountered on any trip I have been on. This city is immaculate in every way and something that the people of Singapore should be proud of. While heading out to the club in a taxi and while walking outside of the hotel grounds, we never saw any garbage or graffiti, no homeless people, no unattended gardens/trees or even a single pothole in the road. Throughout our entire stay we always wondered if this city of perfection came at a cost. We quickly realized that this high cost of living has its downfalls. We spoke with many cab drivers who are angry with the government over how lavish their life is, while they themselves suffer along. One also voiced his opinions fairly loudly telling us about the imperfections that lie within the justice system. He continued by saying that if you do anything wrong/break the law, the judges simply ignore your pleas, punish you and refuse to listen on a case by case basis. Everyone is painted with the same brush regardless of circumstances. We started to feel for these people. Yet, no matter how worked up they got while voicing their frustrations, all of them would always say that they still loved the city of Singapore. I feel there is so much more to see and to explore. So much that we were simply unable to see due to time constraints. The people, the architecture, the liveliness and simply the beauty of this city has drawn me in. I will see you again Singapore.

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Posted by BlondeandCurly 10.05.2013 07:48 Archived in Singapore Tagged marina singapore bay sands Comments (1)

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