The Love For Breakfasts – Singapore  

Here’s what my first breakfast in my new home of Singapore looked like: sticky, slime-colored coconut custard jam slathered over a thin crisp of toasted brown bread, served with a side of two eggs so undercooked that their whites retained the clarity of newly dead fish eyes. Alongside, a small cup of coffee with an oleaginous blackness that rejected the advances of condensed milk. It was not love at first sight.

And yet, in a way that only travelers can appreciate, a passion was born. The basis of a classic Singaporean breakfast, kaya is a custard of coconut milk, eggs, and sugar, flavored with pandan leaf, which gives the jam the perfume of freshly cut grass and the flavor of the underside of a lawn mower. In the Malay language, kaya means “rich.” But the richness doesn’t end with the jam. It’s served with barely boiled eggs, cracked into  the runny eggs served in cups. The jam was so fresh I ate three helpings and ordered another tapow (to go).


Fragrant, earthy, and sugary, kaya jam is the star of a stack of toast

After more than three years of obsessing over breakfast, I reached the apotheosis of my kaya quest. A search for the oldest kopitiam in Singapore led me to Heap Seng Leong, a flashback to a world of “uncles” in pajama pants, milk-can ashtrays, and old men lingering over newspapers as the day turns from balmy to incendiary. Decades of dietary fads have gone unnoticed at this kopitiam, which specializes in kopi guyou-coffee with an oil slick of butter on top. The taste is just what you’d expect: black coffee plus butter. There’s a reason you don’t do this at home. The most amazing thing I saw here was the ancient proprietor hand-slicing a loaf of bread the size of a cocker spaniel. It was not the best kaya toast, but the improbable fact that this mid-century holdover is in business at all is astonishing.

When friends visited me, the first thing I would do is whisk them off to Tong Ah. I told myself I was showing them a Singaporean secret. But I was also revealing a bit about myself, and that’s the point of obsessions.

My passion for kaya—a food item my father found so inscrutable he put it on ice cream—really has nothing to do with jam. And everything to do with my love for and fascination with Singapore and Singaporeans. Along the way I discovered how to disappear into a faraway place and come away with a rich experience.

 Breakfast spots in Singapore



Entering this kopitiam is “like stepping into a time portal,” writes Leslie Tay, the Singaporean behind food blog ieatishootipost .sg. “We need places like this so that our kids know where we came from and what it was like in the past. 10 North Bridge Rd.



Local kaya-philes love the extra-crispy toast served at this iconic kopitiam located on a street lined with old shophouses. Breakfast is not the only specialty- dinner features home-style dishes. 35 Keong Saik Rd.


For deliciously messy breakfasts served on weathered marble tables, try this old-school kopitiam in the Joo Chiat neighborhood, which specializes in toasted buns topped with custardy kaya jam. 204 East Coast Rd.

This Mini-Guide Will Help You to Discover The Real London Air

Brexit may have been controversial for the Brits, but travelers eager to visit London have reason to celebrate. Politics aside, the aftermath of Brexit brings tourism benefits to Americans because of a favorable exchange rate and more affordable transatlantic airfares.

Anglophiles drawn to the English capital will find that the city is still an eclectic mix of royal, modern, and indie. Even native Londoners would need more than a lifetime to uncover everything that their city offers.   Venturing beyond the historic center and popular must-see spots can feel as though you’ve wandered past a series of connected villages that sport football scarves as flags. Sometimes, it can seem like you’ve even, in the tradition of British television treasure Doctor Who, traversed through time and space itself.


London’s calling. Answer in a classic red phone box

In spite of the current legislative upheaval, visitors will discover a welcoming city. Diversity is diffused throughout London’s 60,000 winding streets, from the experimental artist spaces to neighborhood ethnic eateries to the stocked stalls that line Saturday markets. In London, hipsters, global finance leaders, and expats convene as equals with a pint in hand at the local pub.

And that, Brexit or not, is a pretty great deal.

Situate your stay along the Thames, the aquatic artery that threads through the heart of London. Just steps from both the river and Trafalgar Square, the CORINTHIA boasts Victorian architecture, a planet-size crystal chandelier, a florist, and a swanky spa featuring an ice fountain and sleeping pods. Across the street from the Tower of London and a few minutes’ stroll from the river is CITIZENM. The 370-room hotel includes a lobby made to feel like your living room, if your living room were outfitted with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and Union Jack accent pieces.


CitizenM Hotel’s Tower of London location is both proper and plush

Plus, there are Instagram-ready workspaces with complimentary espresso, a library saturated with style books, and a selection of iMacs in case you left your laptop at home. For an alternative stay, try the GOOD HOTEL, a floating former detention center for illegal immigrants. This new not-for-profit hotel will spend five years in the Royal Victoria Docks, serving up local craft beers in what was once the mess hall and waterfront views on its rooftop garden. Better yet: All the Good Hotel’s profits go into an education and entrepreneurship program for its staff.

Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer Train Explores Beauty

The next step up Mount Norquay requires a lunge of faith. Looking over my sunglasses, slipping in sweat, I see I must now go left and out, across an outcrop of rock that juts some 200 feet above nothingness. I look at my red knuckles, gripping the tiny iron rungs bolted on the face of the cliff, and utter an expletive. (My mind knows I’m safely harnessed and tethered, but my body doesn’t believe a word of it.) I swing my left foot across the brittle rock, landing it on an inch-shallow ledge. I stay like that, hanging on, straddling a mountain face outside the town of Banff in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, as close to spread-eagle as my 47-year-old frame gets.

Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer Train

Wait, wasn’t I supposed to be on a train trip? It started that way. In three days, I got to Banff in Alberta, Canada from my home in Portland in Oregon, U.S.A.., partly by rail. It’s not only a gorgeous ride, cutting across the snow-capped Rockies and river gorges, but also a historic one. Sir John Macdonald, Canada’s beloved first prime minister, built the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in the 1880s to turn Canada into a unified, transcontinental nation. Eventually it spawned the country’s national park system, opened up the mountains to tourism, and led to the development of Canada’s first luxury hotels. The only way to traverse the historic railway’s most rugged stretches is the Rocky Mountaineer, a luxury excursion train from Seattle to Banff (with overnight stops in Vancouver and Kamloops in British Columbia). That gives plenty of opportunity to consider the essence of Canada Oh, yes, and dine on three-course meals while sipping Okanagan Valley wines.

U.S. AND CANADIAN flags stand on either side of the Rocky Mountaineer’s eight cars in Seattle, as I— and about 150 others—board the train. Soon the rails take us alongside the Puget Sound, where we pass stacks of crab pots on the water and barns labelled “APPLE” and “CIDER.” By the time we pass the “Peace Arch,” built on the two nations’ border, passengers have loosened up. When we chug toward Vancouver’s glittering glass skyline, a father of a family from Mumbai breaks into a lullaby. The 60-something couple from Boston across the aisle asks what it says. “It means, T love you, but don’t make me wait.’”

I CHECK INTO the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, then rush off to a downtown bar above a 7-Eleven. Opened as a members-only club for (male) Canadian Pacific railway workers in 1931, the Railway Club is now a music venue with wooden floors, a small stage area, a nook for darts, and a hidden lounge. It’s Friday, it’s busy. And not everyone is sober. I’m listening to an indie music band playing from the bar. “Did you know this is where pop star k.d. lang got her break?” a woman next to me asks. I didn’t. Samantha Kuryliak, an Ontario expat and off-duty bartender, says new bands begin here, and she loves it because all sorts of people come. “I have one regular who has come three times a week for 30 years. He’s 75.”


We have a full day to explore Vancouver, so in the morning, I hop on a free shuttle to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver’s most popular attraction. It was built from hemp rope and cedar shortly after the railway reached town. First Nations groups called it the ‘laughing bridge” for the sounds the wind made whipping through its loose planks. It’s sturdier now, running 450 feet above a canyon and leading to elevated walkways between 250-year-old Douglas firs. Later, from the former CPR train station, a neoclassical building now serving as a Sea Bus ferry terminal, I cab it to Yaletown in downtown Vancouver. It’s there I find a 19th-eentury roundhouse, constructed to service trains.

It’s home to Engine 374, the first train to pull into town (in 1887). Inside, Craig McDowall, a grey-haired volunteer with a handlebar moustache, has been a train spotter since he was five. He played on the 374 as a kid when it was stationed in Kitsilano Park. Misreading me as a fellow train aficionado, McDowall calls up some steam engine videos on his laptop, then points me to the steps of the steam engine cab to pull the whistle. “Go on,” he says with a nod. I don’t think I have a choice, so I step forward, pull a cord, and reward myself—and a couple of Texan visitors loitering nearby—with a bellow that echoes across the brick floor.

The Most Amazing Railway Stations In India

Sawai Madhopur Junction, Rajasthan – When passengers alight at Sawai Madhopur station, gateway to Rajasthan’s Ranthambore National Park, they’re struck by the bright murals that adorn its walls. There is a giant painting of a banyan tree that covers the entire ceiling of a central hall. It is modelled after a real tree inside the national park, one of the largest in India. A number of forest dwellers inhabit its branches. Paintings of tigers, flocks of birds, and sloth bears cover platform walls and pillars of the small station, offering a colourful peek into life in the jungle. Painted by the artists from the Ranthambore School of Art, the spectacular murals capture the hearts of all who visit this National Tourism Award-winning station.


Royapuram, Tamil Nadu – The very first train to run in South India rolled out of Chennai’s Royapuram station in the monsoon of 1856 and travelled to the town of Arcot in Vellore district. Royapuram was southern India’s first station, in what was then known as the Madras Presidency. The original structure still stands today, making it the oldest functional railway station in the country. The simple red-and-white colonial building with grand Corinthian pillars is a heritage structure. The station underwent extensive restoration in 2005.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Maharashtra – Without a doubt CST is Mumbai city’s busiest railway station. But the metropolitan city’s transport hub is also a UNESCO World Heritage structure and one of the best examples of Gothic Revival architecture in India. Gargoyles jut out of the high walls of this 19th-century masterpiece; they often spout water from their mouths during the monsoon. A high-arched ceiling painted with golden stars covers the ticket counter, while statues and carvings of peacocks, tigers, and other wildlife cover walls and crevices. An octagonal ribbed dome atop the structure is its crowning glory. Known as Victoria Terminus until 1996, CST is an arterial city station, one which took almost a decade to build.

Charbagh Railway Station, Uttar Pradesh – The city of nawabs welcomes passengers in style at the splendid red-and-white Charbagh Railway Station. Built in 1914, the sprawling structure blends Mughal and Rajasthani architecture, and overlooks a huge garden located outside its front entrance. It was here, under the station’s cupola-studded structure, that Jawaharlal Nehru is said to have first met Mahatma Gandhi in 1916. In aerial views, the structure with its small and large domes resembles a chessboard laid out with pieces.

Charbagh Railway Station, Uttar Pradesh

Charbagh Railway Station, Uttar Pradesh

Howrah Junction, West Bengal – With a mindboggling 23 platforms, this is one of the busiest stations in India. A melee of bookshops, tea stalls, and fast-food stands provide succour to passengers. This is one of the oldest stations in India, and the first train from Howrah ran on 15 August 1854, to Hooghly. It was the proverbial feather in the cap for British engineers, representing a new era in the colonial dream of expansion. Located on the banks of the Hooghly River, with the Howrah bridge leading up to its cherry-red facade, the station has starred in many a poster shot promoting the state. Its architecture is a mix of Romanesque and traditional Bengali styles, very much in sync with its surroundings.

Discover The Portrait Of The Unforgettable Dublin

DUBLIN WRITERS MUSEUM – Letters, rare editions, portraits, and other memorabilia from the likes of Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Shaw, Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett fill this 18th-century mansion. The Michelin-starred restaurant Chapter One occupies its basement level.

JAMES JOYCE CENTRE – Far from a stuffy memorial to the literary cult figure, the centre hosts weekly Joyce-themed walks, spearheads the annual Bloomsday festival, and welcomes guest readers as starry as Stephen Fry.

TRINITY COLLEGE – Take a student-guided walking tour around this prestigious 16th-century university, home to the largest library in Ireland and the illuminated ninth-century Gospel manuscript, the Book of Kells.



SWENY’S PHARMACY – Daily Joyce readings take place at this former pharmacy where Ulysses’ Leopold Bloom famously buys lemon-seen ted soap.

PATRICK’S – Dublin’s 13th-century cathedral, one of the city’s few remaining medieval buildings, is a pilgrimage spot for fans of satirist and poet Jonathan Swift, who was also a dean of the cathedra.

NATIONAL LIBRARY OF IRELAND – Its holdings include the largest collection of W. B. Yeats manuscripts in the world, donated by the Yeats family.

Kurseong: The Place Where Tea Experiments Make The Rules

The wispy trails rising from my cup carry the aroma of muscatel that is distinctive of Darjeeling tea. I sip the amber liquid. The tea has a smoky flavour punctuated by a second aroma: a fresh, woodsy smell coming from a thin strip of green at the bottom of the cup. On cue, a lanky young man strides towards me from a counter in the dining room. “It is lemongrass,” he explains. “The delicate essence always complements the strong notes of a pure Darjeeling second flush.”

I am at Cochrane Place, a 19th-century bungalow in Kurseong, in North Bengal, 30 kilometres south of its more glamorous neighbour, Darjeeling. The heritage stay is a charming mishmash of cosy wooden cabins, expensive art, and tea-themed whatnots. Laltu Purkait, the ponytailed man now animatedly explaining the nuances of Darjeeling tea to me, is the resident tea blender. From his tea salon behind the patio, he concocts exotic fusions—the pale golden first flush or the tawny second flush brewed to perfection from the finest leaves from local tea gardens, blended with an assortment of spices and fruits. Two of his special brews won him the Times Now Best Foodie Award in 2011.


For me, visiting Kurseong—a 19th-century colonial hill station known for its tea and orchids—is a bit of a home coming as I cherish fond memories of the summer holidays I spent in my uncle’s house here. The pleasant walks through pine groves on St Mary’s Hill above the town, and the toy train rides past quaint homes and churches have remained much the same. And my early introduction to the world of “champagne” teas grown in the gardens of Makaibari, Castleton, and Ambootia, the region’s three most famous estates, has bloomed into a lifelong addiction.

Perched on a ridge, Cochrane Place seems to be stuck in time. Once the home of Sir Percy John Cochrane, a Raj-era magistrate, Cochrane Place has changed hands a few times since those days, including being owned by the royal family of Burdwan. Dhiraj Arora, a Kolkata businessman and current owner, has restored it to its former stone, log, and cast-iron splendour. In the evening, guests flock to Laltu’s salon. When I’m there, he’s serving up four tea fusion shots, in between rounds of masala chai for a group of visitors, and chocolate tea for the kids. A plate of cookies is kept as a palate cleanser. The first one is Laltu’s favourite—apple cinnamon tea. It’s expectedly fruity with two ultra-thin slices of apple floating on top. But the tell-tale flavour of a high quality second flush is unmistakable.

The second shot is a delicious blend of Darjeeling autumn brewed with crushed orange peel. The third cocktail, an Irish Tea redolent with the taste of fresh caramel disappoints me, because it overwhelms the subtle first flush used to make it. The fourth shot wins with its mature textures of second flush tea interwoven with intense notes of chopped betel leaf. The tastes of clove, cardamom, and fennel seeds linger on my palate long after the last swallow. I have always considered myself a puritan when it comes to tea. But the quirky blends made me consider this innovative way to contemporize the drink. “We have taken things a little forward here,” says Laltu, “keeping in mind a beautiful fact about tea: it absorbs the flavour of almost anything.”


Early next morning I set off towards the sprawling, mist-drenched terraces of Makaibari, the world’s first tea factory established in 1859- Since its inception until very recently, the gardens were owned by the Banerjee family. Rajah Banerjee, the present chairman, continues his family’s legacy with the biodynamic practices that he has introduced in order to grow top-quality organic tea. It is spring, and harvest season on the manicured emerald slopes. Women sporting headscarves or broad-brimmed hats roam the hillside, plucking two leaves and a bud, tossing them into the wicker baskets on their backs. I take a quick tour of the Makaibari factory where tea is withered, rolled, dried, sorted, and packaged. My guide Ravi Gurung, whose family has worked in the tea gardens for four generations, invites me to his home for a cuppa.

Ravi’s modest wooden hut has a battered bench under a flowering rhododendron tree. I sit there, looking across the valley to the grey outline of the hills, capped by the jumble of Kurseong’s buildings. Ravi hands me a porcelain cup. As I take my first sip, a sharp, tangy flavour invades my taste buds, but the pungent bitterness is soon overridden by the delicate floral strains of first flush tea. “This is a blend of passion fruit with the season’s first harvest,” Ravi answers my questioning glance. I am incredulous about how he has retained the flavour of the leaf, given the strong sweet-sour flavour of passion fruit. Clearly the chemistry of tea is complicated, and those who have mastered it, are able to create strange and interesting combinations.

Discover Entertainment In The Philippines

At this very moment, a good number of the 12 million people in Metro Manila are craving sour. Manilenos bite into a tart, crisp slice of green mango dabbed with fermented shrimp paste for an afternoon snack. They slurp a hearty bowl of tamarind soup at a Sunday after-church lunch. They crunch fried fish dipped in chilli-spiked palm vinegar at a cafeteria-style turo-turo, where customers simply point (turn) at their dish of choice. Sour appears on menus everywhere in the Philippines. Each dish has a distinct taste and degree of tanginess based on the region and the season.

In Manila, sour can be found both at a design-centric restaurant in the financial district of Makati and at a Baclaran carinderia, a food stall where jeepney and pedicab drivers sit on benches for a meal and a break from the city’s paralyzing traffic. When nature handed this Southeast Asian country lemons—and a tropical bounty of other acidic fruits—the Filipinos made lemonade. And ceviche. And sour fried chicken. That last dish appears on the menu at Kafe Batwan, in Makati. Chef J.P. Anglo pays homage to his roots on Negros, the fourth largest of the Philippines’ 7,107-plus islands, by featuring the native batwan, a hard fruit smaller than a lime. Anglo marinates the chicken in batwan juice, coconut vinegar, and lemon grass salt, then fries it crisp for a surprisingly delicious twist.

 Kafe Batwan

Kafe Batwan

The stairs leading up to a second-floor dining room showcase bottles of spicy homemade vinegar and Don Papa, a small-batch rum named after the shaman and revolutionary who in 1896 freed from the Spaniards the island of Negros, where this sugarcane product is distilled. “Sourness is the main flavour that distinguishes us from other Asian cuisines,” says Amy Besa, cookbook author and co-owner of Purple Yam in Manila’s buzzing retail district of Malate. Located in Besa’s ancestral home, the restaurant displays original artworks by acclaimed Filipino modernist Botong Francisco, Besa’s godfather.

Besa and her husband, chef Romy Dorotan, alternate between Manila and Brooklyn, where the original Purple Yam has drawn fans of the couple’s fresh and elegantly updated Filipino dishes since 2009 (and before that at their now shuttered SoHo restaurant, Cendrillon). “The holy trinity of native Filipino foods,” says Besa, is adobo, sinigang (a tamarind soup or stew), and kinilaw (a cured seafood dish similar to ceviche). “All three dishes are cooked and eaten by all classes of society from the very rich to the very poor,” she says. Dorotan’s recipe for chicken adobo—meat braised in rice vinegar, garlic, pepper, and coconut milk—is possibly the most published and shared of all Filipino adobos.

Many Filipinos believe that imbibing a steaming sour soup, such as sinigang, helps cool the body—and whet the appetite. Chefs Isaiah Ortega and Korinne Lirio-Ortega believe in the power of sour soup so much that they opened Sinigang restaurant in BF Homes Paranaque, a well-off Manila neighbourhood that has seen numerous restaurants open in the past year. Prior to the restaurant’s launch, Ortega read up on all things sinigang and travelled the provinces. He says he found “more than 20 different souring agents used for sinigang,” including pineapple, herbs, tree bark, and others he’d never heard of such as libas (hog plum), bignay (Chinese laurel), and katmon (elephant apple). The Ortegas had the sour fruits shipped to Manila in sacks.

Relaxing Holidays in Tropical Paradise.Philippines Island.

Relaxing Holidays in Tropical Paradise.Philippines Island.

Patrick Roa’s food awakening happened during his search for the best ceviche. “I can make you 50 kinds of ceviche, if you want,” Roa says. He and his wife, Pia Temporal Roa, opened Patricio’s Cevicheria in Fort Bonifacio to share his findings. The Roas also serve Hawaiian -poke and regional Filipino kinilaw. Their superstar dish: kinilaw de Oro, fresh tuna cured in coconut vinegar with fruits and roots indigenous to the region around Cagayan de Oro, where Patrick grew up.

Whether you’re dining at Harbour Square with a view of Manila Bay or meeting for lunch in the posh Rockwell Center area of Makati, it’s perfectly natural to ask the servers for some fish sauce (patis) to accompany your meal. This will come on a small plate with a sweet-sour calamansi (Philippine lime) and one little red hot pepper slit in the middle to let you temper the heat. “The ritual of sawsawan (dipping sauce) is an important part of meals,” says Pia Lim-Castillo, who teaches cooking at her home kitchen in Forbes Park, Makati. “By adjusting the sauce, the eater partakes in the cooking.”

Have a Hipster Tour in Williamsburg – Brooklyn, New York

Start by having brunch or a mimosa at magnificent, old-world Hotel Delmano (82 Berry St), or try simple and delicious French fare at cozy Le Barricou (553 Grand St, tel: 718-782-7372).

Then head out to Bedford Avenue, the area’s main shopping drag, chockablock with clothing and antique shops, cafes, and restaurants. Start at Brooklyn Industries (no. 162), where messenger bags and cool T’s for both men and women are hot items, or poke through the well-edited selection of designer clothes made in NYC at In God We Trust (no. 148). One of the more interesting stores you’ll find is Catbird (no. 219), a tiny, funky shop specializing in fine delicate jewelry and interesting gift ideas. Get some vintage CDs and LPS at Earwax next door, or browse the crammed bookshelves at quirky Spoonbill and Sugartown a few doors down, then head next door to Verb Café to study hipsters in their natural environment. If you’re craving a snack, get a free cheese sample at the Bedford Gourmet Cheese Shop (no. 229).


Bedford Gourmet Cheese Shop

When you’re ready for dinner, try the cozy and packed Diner (85 Broadway, tel: 718-486-3077), a favorite with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain for its grass-fed burger and organic new American cuisine. If the wait is too long, go a few blocks away to Maison Premiere (298 Bedford Ave, tel: 347-345-0446), a famously decadent oyster bar set in the 1920s that is dripping with romance and finely crafted cocktails. Then it’s time for what Brooklyn is really famous for these days: music


Maison Premiere – New York

Science Express Combines Perfectly Knowledge, Fun and Beauty of Nature

Rolling into stations around India since 2007, the Science Express is essentially a science exhibition on a railway track. For seven months a year, the train travels to various places across the country. Visitors, especially schoolchildren, troop in for guided tours. The train undergoes thematic transformations; it ran as Science Express Biodiversity Special from 2012-2014 and has been the Science Express Climate Action Special since 2015.


The pop-coloured interiors are lined with exhibits and photographs created by the Centre for Environment Education, National Innovation Foundation, and Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology on themes like the impact of climate change, adaptation, carbon footprints, and prevention of climate change. The next phase of the vibrant science lesson begins October 2016 and goes on till May 2017. (; entry free).

  • Around the world: If the train tracks of the Indian Railways were laid side by side, they would cover Earth’s circumference twice over, and then some more.

Other Beautiful Indian Rail Routes:


Take The Tiger Express and Get Enthralled By India’s Wilderness



Ranthambore National Park

Scenes from the jungle and India’s many heritage sites adorn the exterior of the semi-luxury Tiger Express that journeys to Rajasthan from Delhi. Passengers travel to Udaipur, Chittorgarh, and Ranthambore National Park to soak in the tranquility and myriad sights of the forest, and perhaps catch sight of the magnificent striped cat.

The entire train is a tribute to the national animal, so a journey aboard ensures the image of the regal beast stays with travellers long after the safari has ended.

Other Beautiful Indian Rail Routes:

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