Going Off the Beaten Path in Singapore, Part I

A reflection and narrative on my travels through Singapore

When visiting a new city you can opt for one of two options: follow the traditional tourist route and do what 99% of your fellow travelers are doing...or toss the guidebook in the trash and head off the beaten path. I'm not advocating either option, as both have their upsides. But one thing is for certain: if you choose the road less traveled you'll certainly return home with a bit more swagger in your step and a potent case of wanderlust.

Singapore, like all other cities, has its go-to tourist locales. You've got Sentosa Island, effectively a western theme park boasting imports like Universal Studios and American chain restaurants; the Marina Bay Sands hotel, a swank cluster of three 55-story buildings connected by a roof terrace shaped like a cruise ship and overflowing with luxury stores; or Gardens by the Bay, a 101 hectare garden teeming with exquisite florae. There's nothing wrong with these localities, but if you really want to experience unique and under-the-radar spots Singapore has to offer you've come to the right place.

So put down that $7 Starbucks (be prepared to shell out for western chain coffees) and grab a local kopi (coffee) or teh (tea) – we're going exploring.

1. Central Catchment Nature Reserve (MacRitchie)

This underrated 12-hectare national park is rather inconvenient to access via public transportation, so try taking an Uber or a GrabTaxi (Uber's Southeast Asia competitor.) They're always running promotions, so look online before you download the app to save some money. Pack plenty of sunscreen and water as many paths will leave you exposed to the relentless sun. But keep your phone handy for photos because you'll probably see a monkey or two. Just don't feed them. The best part of the reservoir is the TreeTop Walk that allows you to cross over a small ravine. Just wide enough for allow for one-way traffic, it affords an incredible opportunity to gaze across the wild jungle that once blanketed the island before a human presence forced it underground.

2. Singapore Sports Hub

Don't be fooled by the name. While you can certainly take advantage of the athletics on display, the true value of this local haunt lies in its spectacular nighttime view of the island. Gaze across a glittering body of water that hosts dragon boat races during the day and feast your eyes on the spectacular skyline of Singapore's CBD (central business district.) You can also rent a kayak, paddleboat, or even a dragon boat should the desire so move you. If you're in the mood to nosh, try a bun from Fun Toast, a local bakery located inside the Kallang Wave Mall that has served up traditional Singaporean snacks for over 70 years. The best part? You'll rarely see another foreigner. Instead, locals chattering away in Mandarin, Bahasa, or "Singlish," Singapore's hodgepodge language comprised of English and Hokkien phrases, will surround you.

3. Biking in East Coast Park

If zipping down a path with the wind whistling in your ears sounds appealing, definitely rent a bike and take it for a spin on an East Coast path. East Coast Park is accessible by public transportation and is a perennial local favorite. The path borders the sea and most of the time it's wide enough so if you get stuck behind a slow-moving auntie or uncle (colloquial casual term for a mature man or woman) you'll be able to easily navigate around them.

4. Mint Museum of Toys

Indulge your inner­­—or outer—child at this eclectic museum near the legendary Raffles Hotel. (Pro-tip: pop by Raffles anyway to ogle the exquisite stained glass framing the Raffles Courtyard restaurant and gawk at sweat-stained tourists slurping $30 Singapore Slings.) The Museum showcases an astounding 8,000 collectibles on display at any given time from 40 countries, ranging from the 1840s –1970's. Take a gander at early Batmans and popular Japanese toys, or admire the original enamel signs hawking dry goods from days past.

5. Saigon Jalan

The Best Vietnamese Hawker Stall – Most of the food found at hawker stalls—tiny food vendors serving up steam bowls of laksa, economic bee hoon, or other local favorites—is outstanding. Singapore takes great pride in its foodie culture, and it's quite easy to find a satisfying and delicious meal for under $5USD. However, this understated joint dishes out some of the best and most affordable Vietnamese fare in Singapore. Enjoy slurping down fragrant beef noodle soup (Phở Tái) overflowing with plump bean sprouts and paper thin wisps of scallion, topped with dried shrimp flakes and fresh sprigs of thai basil. Or dig into Chả Giò, a crunchy, so-greasy-you-can't-stop-eating deep fried spring roll filled with pork and veggies.

6. Labrador Nature Reserve

Reserve a grill online at this local park to enjoy a barbecue by an aquamarine sea with waves lapping hypnotically in the background. While your view of the Pacific will be slightly marred by the ever-present shipping vessels stationed a mile or so out, it's still an incredibly serene park to spend a lazy afternoon picnicking or running around with the kids. If you take a walk through the forest in the center of the park it'll seem like the frenetic energy of the Singapore streets is miles away and it's easy to see what the island must have been like hundreds of years before man ever set foot upon it.

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Joshua Tree National Park is a gigantic desert located at the crossroads between Palm Springs, the Mojave Desert, and Colorado.

Ever wanted to visit it? Here's what you need to know.

When you first visit Joshua Tree, you're going to want to make a pitstop at one of its three visitor centers—the Joshua Tree Visitors Center (in the northwest), the Cottonwood Visitor Center (in the south), the Oasis Visitor Center (in the north), or the Black Rock Campground (in the northwest, open from October through May). Be sure to call in advance before you go.

In general, it's best to visit the park in the spring or fall. A popular stop-off for hikers, rock climbers, and road-trippers, the park is a surreal and unforgettable area beloved for its unique Joshua trees and so much more.

Must-See Highlights

If you only have a short time in Joshua Tree, you'll want to see its most famous destinations. The Cholla Cactus Garden is a highlight—located 20 minutes north of the Cottonwood Visitor Center, it's a must-see, and if you can make it out for sunrise, the experience will be extra unforgettable.

Steve Sieren Steve SierenFlickr

Consider paying a visit to Parker Dam, a rare watery oasis in the middle of the desert. You might also take a trip to the Cottonwood Spring Oasis for more watery views, possibly complete with views of bighorn sheep.

History and Culture

For some history, be sure to check out the Keys Ranch, to hear the story of Bill and Frances Keys, who built a town—including a schoolhouse and ranch—in Joshua Tree for their five children. Don't miss Keys View while you're at it.

keys view Keys Viewalexvy.org

Keys View

Joshua Tree is well-known for drawing all sorts of alternative types, and it has the lore to match. Rock and roll fans often visit Cap Rock, the place where rocker Gram Parsons' body was cremated.

Cap RockJoshua Tree 3D

Natural Wonders: Trees, Stars and Rocks

Joshua Tree is one of the best places in the world to see stars. With some of the darkest skies in the world, it's a great chance for desert photography or possible UFO sightings.

Joshua Tree Night Sky Joshua Tree Night SkyShaina Blum

It's also well-known for its many rock formations. There's Split Rock, a giant boulder that appears to be literally split in two, located off Park Boulevard.

There's also Skull Rock, a rock that, naturally, resembles a fleshless human face.

Skull ROck Skull ROckProtrails

Then there's Arch Rock, which you can climb on in order to see the desert from a brand-new angle.

Arch Rock Arch Rockfollowyourdetour.com

And of course, there are the Joshua trees. In addition to the famous trees, the park has a variety of other desert plants, including the gorgeous red-plumed Ocotillo.

Ocotillo OcotilloiStock

Hiking and Adventure

Rock climbers (or anyone who wants to watch in awe) can pay a visit to the Hidden Valley Campground, a world-renowned climbing center. Hidden Valley also offers gorgeous views of Coachella Valley. Climbers also love visiting the Jumbo Rocks Campground, with its many challenging formations.

For a slightly less strenuous day, visit the beautifully descriptively named Oasis of Mara, a stretch of honey mesquite and playas that offers a short-half mile loop which will let you experience the desert's wildflowers and nature. Mara was named by the Serrano Indians, who called this location their first home in this world.

Oasis of Mara Oasis of MaraSCPR

Another popular Joshua Tree hike is the 49 Palms Oasis hike, a 3-mile trek to an oasis. The Ryan Mountain hike is also a 3-mile uphill trek that will take you around 3 hours, but it'll lead you to a dramatic 3000-foot elevation with 360 degree views.

Finally, the also-3-mile Mastodon Peak Hike will take you to views of the Salton Sea and Eagle Mountains. If driving is more your speed, the park is definitely best for four-wheel drives; if you've got one, check out the Geology Tour Road, an 18-mile stretch that offers 16 stops and plenty of access to scenery.

Camping and Lodging

Camping is a popular attraction in Joshua Tree, so be sure to reserve your campsite ahead of time.

There are 9 main campgrounds in Joshua Tree—Belle Campground, Black Rock Campground, Cottonwood Campground, Hidden Valley Campground, Indian Cove Campground, Jumbo Rocks Campground, Ryan Campground, Sheeps Pass Campground, and the White Tank Campground.

You can also try staying at a Bureau of Land Management-owned area, or backcountry camping if you're prepared to really fend for yourself—just be sure to register at one of the backcountry boards.

If you're not up for camping, check out a local motel or Airbnb—there are plenty available near the park.

Tips and Tricks

Joshua Tree National Park has no cell service, so you'll really want to plan ahead before you go. There are no restaurants or grocery stores in the park, so be sure to pack food and water.

Food & Drink

6 NYC Food Trends You Can Try at Home

From Raindrop Cakes to Ramen Burgers, these New York City food crazes are available in your kitchen.

Back when a world outside your home and the grocery store existed, New York City had a habit of getting swept up in food crazes.

Sometimes those crazes have involved a burgeoning appreciation for an established cultural tradition from around the world -- arepas, poké bowls, Korean barbecue. At other times these crazes have just involved particular purveyors taking a familiar item more seriously -- like the doughnut renaissance spurred by Doughnut Plant and Dough.

But the most alluring and often ridiculous food trends in New York City tend to involve something truly novel, eye-catching, and sometimes just weird. Fortunately, for those of us who are taking pandemic conditions seriously, there are options to bring some of the novelty of those trends home for the Instagrammable weirdness you may have been missing.

These are some of the recent New York City food trends that you can try for yourself.

Raindrop Cake

raindrop cake

Like a lot of food trends that sweep New York, the Raindrop Cake can be traced back to Japan. Created by the Kinseiken Seika company outside Tokyo, the clear, jiggly cake was originally introduced as water mochi. In 2016 a Brooklyn-based digital marketer named Darren Wong set out to introduce the strange "edible water" to New York at the Smorgasburg food festival, and the strangely beautiful dessert took off.

Now Wong sells kits with everything you need to create your own low-calorie jellyfish/breast implant confection at home. For $36 the kit includes ingredients, molds, and bamboo trays for six raindrop cakes served with brown sugar syrup and Japanese Kinako flour.

Cronuts

cronuts

Dominique Ansel Bakery

When French pastry chef Dominique Ansel introduced New York to his chimera dessert blending a croissant with a doughnut, it was an overnight sensation with lines around the block to try the flaky fried goodness. They were such a hit that a more pedestrian version of the cronut made its way to Dunkin around the country.

Since then, Ansel has unveiled a number of buzzworthy and inventive creations, like What-a-Melon ice cream, Zero-Gravity cakes, and frozen s'mores. But if you want to try the sensation that started it all, Ansel has shared his original cronut recipe.

And if it turns out that you're not quite at the level to emulate a world-renowned French pastry chef, you can always try the knock-off version with these simple biscuit dough donuts you can make in an air fryer.

Ramen Burger

ramen burger

Here's another food craze imported from Japan. The ramen burger has popular in the Fukushima region for some time, but it was first introduced to New York by chef Keizo Shimamoto's restaurant Ramen Shack in 2013.

The simple fusion of Japanese and American cuisine is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Instead of a standard white bread bun, ramen noodles are cooked to chewy perfection, pressed into a bun shape, then seared in sesame oil until the outside is crispy.

Inside that bun you can place whatever kind of burger you like, but Shimamoto's version involved a beef patty served with arugula, scallions, and a signature sauce. While your results with instant ramen are unlikely to match the quality of Shimamoto's buns, this recipe should help you get close.

Ube Ice Cream

Ube ice cream

Gemma's Bigger Bolder Baking

The purple yam known as ube is a staple of Filipino desserts. In recent years its distinctive, almost floral sweetness has grown in popularity in NYC, showing up in a variety of baked goods and in the Philippines's signature take on shaved ice -- halo-halo.

The fluffy ube mamons -- sponge cakes -- at Red Ribbon Bakeshop are a great introduction to what has made it such a popular ingredient. There is also the delicious flan-like ube halaya. But maybe the most craveable and craze-worthy uses of ube is as a flavor of ice cream.

This simple recipe calls for ube extract or powder, rather than using actual yam -- but the distinctive ube flavor still comes through in the delicious results.

Grasshoppers

Tempura grasshoppers

Food Republic

Speaking of climate change... oh, were we not talking about climate change? It's always just lingering in the background -- a portent of doom hovering over all our thoughts about the future? Cool.

Anyway, speaking of climate change, one of the most important changes our society will need to make in order to mitigate its catastrophic effects it to shift our food supply to a more sustainable model. And one of the keys to that effort will be a shift away from meat to less wasteful protein sources.

Plant-based alternatives like impossible burgers and beyond meats are a likely component of that shift, but one of the most efficient forms of protein on Earth is also one of the easiest to come by -- bugs. With that in mind, restaurants like The Black Ant have introduced insects as a fashionable part of NYC dining.

You might be thinking that's gross, but in reality...it absolutely is. Bugs are weird and gross, and the idea of eating them is not appetizing.

But chances are there's already something in your diet that would be gross if you weren't used to it -- aren't lobsters basically sea bugs anyway? So if you can find a way to get over that mental block and make those bugs appealing -- as cultures around the world have been doing throughout history -- you might be ready for the Snowpiercer dystopia that lies ahead.

With that in mind, you can buy a bucket of crunchy dried grasshoppers to start experimenting with cooking. And, while not as inventive as Black Ant's grasshopper-crusted shrimp tacos, these recipes for curried tempura grasshoppers and Oaxacan chapulines tacos sound downright edible.

Hot Cocktails

hot toddy

Okay, this is hardly a new or a specifically New York trend, but with restaurants and bars moving outdoors in the middle of winter, people have been warming themselves with hot beverages. But there's nothing to stop you from bringing that heat home to enjoy a tipsy winter night on a balcony, rooftop, or fire escape.

From hot toddies to hot buttered rum, spiked hot chocolate, and mulled wine, the possibilities are endless. A hot cocktail can be as simple as Irishing-up a cup of coffee, but we recommend getting your hands on some citrus peel and mulling spices -- cloves, cinnamon sticks, allspice, stare anise, and nutmeg -- and start experimenting with some cheap red wine or apple cider spiked with your favorite brown liquor.

Travel Tips

Best Jobs for People Who Love To Travel

If you want to travel but have a job that is currently holding you back, here are a few of our suggestions for the best jobs for people who love to travel.

For many people, traveling is an amazing experience, but traveling is not always feasible because of responsibilities to work.

One way to get around this roadblock is to get a job that will let you travel and see the world. Here are some of the best jobs for people who love to travel.

Hostelworld HostelworldHostelworld.com

Translator

A translator is a wonderful job for those who want to travel. It will bring you to many places as you work, so long as those places speak the language you can translate. The great thing about translating is the variety of work you can get by translating for specific clients or just translating for tourists in the area. You can choose what type of scene you wish to work in very easily.

Pilot

A pilot fits the definition of a job that gets to travel perfectly. Now, whether you are a private pilot or a commercial pilot, you will still get to fly all over the planet. The only major problem with this job is the requirement of flight classes. But once you get your license, you can fly freely around the world while making yourself money to fund your trips.

Travel blogger

Being a travel blogger is a temperamental job but, if done correctly, it will allow you to visit anywhere you want. Writing to fans as you travel the world can be a fun and exciting way to engage with the planet. This job can be difficult to do, though, as you must be able to write consistently and capture your audience with each post.

English teacher

This may not sound like a job that allows you to travel, but schools all around the world are always looking for more people to teach English.

In this career, you would move near the school that you would teach at and live there over the course of your time there. The interesting thing about this job is that it does not necessarily require a teaching degree, depending on the school and country in question. You also get to live in a new country for an extended period.

When it comes to the best jobs for people who love to travel, these are just a few of our suggestions. There are plenty of jobs where you can travel around the world, but these ones are far-reaching and cover a lot of different lifestyles. They might seem like pipe dreams, but hey, you never know!