Archive for Travel

1 night in quito, ecuador

Last night we landed in Quito for another quick overnight sojourn before a super early morning flight.

With only a few hours to check out the city, we kept it brief and simple. A $3 taxi ride to the Mercardo Artisanal (Artisanal Market), where S and I spent a happy hour trawling the stalls for cool Ecuadorean art, cute jewelry, leather goods, alpaca and sheepskin things that were sooooooo soft, and homewares.

Next up, a walk around the hotel (Swissotel, Quito) to check out the surrounding restaurants in the Isabela Catolica area. There was lots on offer – from French to Italian, Mexican to even Chinese, ranging from canteens on the street to super fine dining with valet parking. We ended up settling on what had been recommended to us – purportedly Quito’s finest Ecuadorean food in a restaurant called La Choza.

It didn’t disappoint – good prices, a huge selection of food, strong cocktails, and cheap beer. We gorged our way through 5 courses (selections of empanadas, ceviches, churrasco and more) and then stumbled happily back to the hotel.

S decided to have a bit of a rest (Quito is over 2000 meters over sea level and the altitude was making us a little less energetic than usual), and I went for a massage in the hotel spa. Martha Sanchez, the Swissotel in-house masseur, was possibly the strongest 5 foot 2 woman I have ever met. She Swedish massaged the living day lights out of me, and whilst I wouldn’t say it was entirely pleasant, it was certainly effective – my shoulders suddenly sat lower, my neck was soft as a baby’s, and my legs like jelly. By this stage it was almost 11pm and we tumbled into bed for our 6am airport fun this morning.

So there you have it, what to do when you have a scant 5 hours in Quito, Ecuador. If we had 2 more hours we would have also explored the old city, which is wonderfully beautiful, but thankfully we had a drive through it on our few hours experience here last week pre-Galapagos.

Next stop – PERU!

24 hours in guayaquil, ecuador

Yesterday we landed in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with just under 24 hours to spend here overnight.

The first thing we did was check into Hotel Oro Verde – a SUPERB hotel by all accounts and one I would highly recommend. Impeccable service , 5 star treatment, and facilities that though a little dated, were still greatly luxurious and amazingly unkept.

We landed late afternoon. After a lovely welcome drink (or 3!) in the hotel bar, we decided to take a rush hour walk amongst the locals – 15 blocks of the bustling city later and after strolling through several public squares and fountains, we found ourselves at the Malecon.

The Malecon is a riverfront area, like a several kilometer long boardwalk filled with tree lined park benches, playgrounds, cafes, and more. Locals were out in full force, and it was simply wonderful to stroll along, watching young and old couples shoot the breeze holding hands and kidding, hear the happy shriek of kids playing bumper cars and on swings, and enjoy the balmy breeze.

Then, we continued into Barrio Las Penas – the famous 400plus step uphill to a lighthouse, in the old part of town. Picture gorgeously colorful colonial style houses, intricate grilled windows, cobble stone lane ways, flanked with art galleries, bars and bachata music wafting down the hill.

After 3 hours of walking around, we headed back to our hotel where we enjoyed a wonderful fondue dinner – I have no idea why we went for a traditional Swiss meal in South America, but it was what we felt like!

This morning I couldn’t quite get one of the paintings we had seen the night before in Las Penas out of my head, so I looked the artist up online. It turns out, he was one of Ecuador’s foremost artists, and had quite the 25 year career. His name is Hermel Quezada, and so after breakfast we paid him another visit.

After a delightful hour in his tiny lane way gallery, we negotiated on a price for one of my favorite pieces in his shop – a large canvas filled with whimsical creatures from the Andean forest that he’d painted almost 25 years ago early in his career. Rather adorably, Hermel explained to me that his paintings were all his children, and to please take good care of it!

S and I have always liked collecting art on our journeys, and this was a rather special one – one of the nicest paintings I’ve ever seen, with a beautiful sentiment and by a great artist. Also, it’s now officially the first piece of art we have acquired as a married couple, making it our wedding present to each other.

We are now at the Guayaquil airport, about to embark on another little mini adventure – 18 hours in Quito. Who knows what may happen there?

Ps, I have no photos of our 24 hour adventure in Guayaquil sadly, as we did a lot of our walking at night after dark, and we didn’t want to carry anything of value with us. Plus, it was quite nice to just enjoy each other’s company and soak in the culture.

honeymoon land!

Well hello hello after the epic festival of weddings! Yes, S and I have finally finished getting married multiple times in multiples manners and countries, and we are firmly in honeymoon land.

The beginning of our honeymoon was fraught with difficulty – hurricanes in NYC (our first destination) followed by a storm that cut short our time there by two thirds, an unplanned visit to Miami and Atlanta, then finally, the Galápagos Islands where we have been on a cruise all week.

The Galapagos cruise has been the REAL start of our honeymoon, we’ve decided – all that daily airline/travel agent/weather madness was just stressful and our time in NYC was too short to be called a holiday. (I did still manage to do a pretty good job of shopping like a crazy lady in that time though!)

Just about from the moment we boarded the cruise, our senses were just drenched in the magnificent wonders of nature that defines the Galapagos.


On our first hike, we were surrounded by blue footed boobies (birds!), sea lions frolicking, iguanas lolling about in the fading afternoon sun, and more, all not more than 4 feet away from us. Just unbelievable, and so awe inspiring for the city girl in me.

This baby sea lion made my heart melt.


We were also treated to a sighting of a mother sea lion, still bloody from her birth, new-born pup learning how to suckle as the mother fought off a roving bird which wanted its placenta. Watching that just filled us with wonder.


Nay, THE FIRST 3 hours on board the ship.

My head exploded.

We have been deep water snorkeling – hugely exhilarating and very scary for me (I have a very deep phobia of the sea). We have seen INCREDIBLE things in the water – sharks, sea lions playing, huge shoals of fish, sting rays, penguins, giant sea turtles swimming gracefully – it was almost like we were scuba diving.



Hikes everyday in these strange, desolate, volcano based lands where we have experienced quite possibly, the most unfettered-by-human-presence animals to have ever lived.


Today is our last day in the Galapagos – one more hike to go before our next South American adventure. I’ll be uploading more photos on my Facebook Page so check it out there!


hello from singapore!

Well I’ve just landed in Singapore and am waiting for the family to wake up and greet me (it’s only 6.45am here).

Actually, I lie, I have already woken my dad up and made him mumble groggily to me that I’m his favorite child before I would give him a cuddle. What can I say, if my siblings snooze, then they lose out on the “favorite child” declarations!

Some observations from my trip so far:

- I’m never traveling without a giant suit bag containing my wedding dress again! It makes everyone at the airport and on the airline super nice to you!

- Singapore Airlines, I know I keep writing about how awesome you are, but thank you again for a great flight experience. From the good food with actual vegetables that were fresh and wholesome tasting to the fab service, for hanging my wedding dress up so readily and treating it with care, for how attentive your flight attendants are and for the smooth landing. Ahhhh.

- Australian Immigration – I have been a permanent resident of this wonderful country for over 5 years now, and you still can’t get my visa linked to my passport properly. That I have had to carry around 2 and now 3 passports every time I travel is bad enough, so that the officers can do a manual sighting of my original visa. Now that I thought they were finally linked properly and don’t carry all the passports around, I always get the “super suspicious” button pressed upon immigration check and have to answer lots of random questions, which is even worse. Lastly, even though I don’t look like it, I speak English just fine, and your officers don’t have to talk extra loud and slow at me.


That’s it folks, hopefully I will spend the week checking in and writing lots, but it’s more likely that I will be running around like a crazy lady! What’s that you say? How is that different to normal?


You may have a point.

the moon of the mead

Happiness -;

This weekend has seen a whirlwind of productivity – not just working long hours but also getting a lot accomplished. In particular, S and I have pretty much booked all our hotels for our honeymoon, and also finalised a whole lot of wedding stuff that really needed some attention. On this late Sunday night, I feel like I can breathe a lot easier now.

Instead of being somewhat apprehensive about the giant event and travel planning ahead, I’m actually starting to get excited. Before this weekend, I wasn’t even giving a single thought to our travel ahead, choosing instead to bury my head in the intricacies of the work I’m doing now, and the wedding planning madness.

Now that it’s all booked though, the happy anticipation has started. I know that after we are married, the feeling of being on that super long plane ride to some of our favourite cities in the world next to my new husband (and annoying him by laying on his shoulder for 20 hours straight) will be priceless. That first day when we land, despite the winter cold, will be absolutely magical. Our shared love for travel and new experiences will guarantee a sparkling, giddy joy that jet lag simply can’t quash.

That, indeed, will be simple and wonderful happiness.

being home

the best punjabi food cooked by my dee dee

In January, I made a slapdash decision to go home for Chinese New Year, for a scant 6 days.

It was, as always, heartwarming to be home, especially at such an important time of year. It’s amazing how much you take for granted the feeling of being surrounded by your clan, partaking in simple rituals and traditions that unfold the same way year after year, and how easy it is to slip back into it even after you’ve been away for so long.

handing out chopsticks for lor hei

handing out chopsticks for lor hei

What I love about being home is that in a short period of time, I get a crash course in my zany, multi-cultural, super extended super close family all over again. Fully immersed in Pakir-Singh-Wee-Tan-Sim-Lee culture is just fantastic, a little nutty, and very yummy.

tossing the lor hei

And then there’s the giggles, and cackles, the exuberant sharing of stories, the catchups, the goss, the loud shouts that characterizes my family, and ALL with your mouth full of amazing food. All. The. Time.

the best punjabi food

Home again in just 5 short weeks. CANNOT. WAIT.

status quo, status changed

sharon pakir & s krygger

HELLO! Yes yes yes, I’ve been a bad blogger. I KNOW. I HAVE NEGLECTED YOU.

But you can hardly blame me!


Well OK you can. Just a little bit.

But not too much.

Lots has happened in the last however long it has been (shh, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know!) and hopefully I’ll get a chance to document it all right here. 2012 has simply been magnificent so far, and has thrown me some amazing experiences and highs.

BUT for all the amazing happenings 2012 has brought, none has matched up to a little trip S took me on to the Barossa Valley in Adelaide, a scant 2 weeks ago.

Our Barossa plans for a weekend away had been a long time coming – we haven’t had a real holiday since our Egypt trip (here, here, here) and decided a 4 day getaway may just do the trick. I booked the flights and then S said he would handle the rest, rather mysteriously, and added on that he couldn’t wait to just SPOIL ME SILLY.

We woke up early one Thursday morning in February, and boarded our flight to Adelaide. We arrived in the wonderful heat that a glorious summer day brings, piled into our rental car, and started driving to the Barossa. S said the first item on our agenda was going to be exciting, so I was well, EXCITED!

We reached Barossa country, and then suddenly pulled down a dirt road that looked like we were in Hawaii. VERY STRANGE.

barossa valley helicopters

miami vice theme song playing in my head...

Little did I know, S had planned a helicopter ride to acquaint ourselves with the Barossa Valley from the SKY!

I was literally SO EXCITED when I saw the helicopter sign, I started shrieking and bouncing up and down and singing “HE-LI-COP-TER RIDE, MY BOUJEE!” to the tune of “Oye Como Va”, rather sadly.

helicopter ride at barossa valley


It really was a truly magnificent experience, and DEFINITELY one of the highlights of our trip.

After such a wonderful start to our weekend, S just kept going from height to height with all the activities he had planned for us.

After a sumptuous tenderloin steak lunch, we checked into the rather amazing Barossa Pavilions, which came complete with picturesque views, a HUGE deck with a swing to watch them from, and a super duper well appointed array of luxuries (in house iPad, L’Occitane toiletries, in-room spa bath that overlooked the valley with floor to ceiling windows)… I was in HEAVEN!

barossa pavilions


We also visited the famous Whispering Wall - which is a HUGE dam wall at the Barossa Reservoir.

The dam is notable for its parabola effect, where a voice can be heard clearly from one side to the other — over 140 metres, end to end. This unusual acoustic phenomenon is a popular tourist attraction, and has earned the dam the title “Whispering Wall”.

You can actually walk ALONG the top of the dam wall – and it’s actually kind of freaky – on one side of you, there’s water that’s so close to you that it’s almost touchable. On the other side of the railing however, a sheer 40 metre drop of concrete wall descending to dirt shows you just how deceptively deep that bright blue water is, and how crazy steep a fall would be. I only got about 1/3 of the way across, then couldn’t go any further, frozen with weird vertigo fear.

S on the other hand, bravely walked all the way across. Can you spot him in the picture below?

barossa dam whispering wall

anxiously watching S walk across....

We merrily went about testing the Whispering Wall’s capabilities, which was super fun – except that S’ voice could be heard VERY clearly (not like a whisper at all) and the other tourists who were around us were subjected to S saying things like “You have a cute BUM!” in the wall like the little deviant that he is. AI YAI YAI.

For dinner that first night, S requested that I don one of the first dresses he ever bought me when we first started going out. It was one of those summer nights that was perfection, sun glowing as it set, balmy breeze, handsome man wining and dining me…

barossa valley - sharon pakir

perfect date night :)

Maybe a little over the top for the countryside, but AH WHO CARES, you only live once! For dinner, S took us to Vintners Winery, which was ABSOLUTELY phenomenal.


vintners winery

vintners winery, barossa valley

sharon pakir & s krygger


JUST a perfect DAY 1 to our trip.


DAY 2, however, to my incredulous surprise, was WAY better.

We started with some wineries in the morning – Penfolds, another winery I don’t remember the name of (YES, MAYBE I WAS SLIGHTLY TIPSY AFTER PENFOLDS, WHY DO YOU ASK), and snacks at Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop, which was simply delightful.

barossa valley - sharon pakir

BLISSFUL morning!

S was being particularly sweet, ordering a case of the Penfolds wines I loved to be delivered to us in Melbourne, enduring my cooing over each port (he doesn’t care for wineries that much), and pretending to care about the different kind of pate at Maggie Beers!

Then, after a long lunch (see the platter in the montage above? That entire loaf of bread was WARM, and OURS. OH YEAH BABY), he drove us to the Novotel Barossa’s ENDOTA SPA - where he had booked me in for 3 hours of SOLID PAMPERING! Sorry for all the yelling but CAN YOU BLAME ME?!!!!!

(I didn’t get any pictures of the spa of course, but after a foot bath, body scrub, steaming shower, full body massage, and facial, suffice to say I was quite literally, dizzy with joy, and stumbling back upstairs to the hotel lobby where my honey had patiently sat waiting in a fuzzy cloak of blabbering giggles). 

That night, S requested another dress he had bought me recently for our cryptic very special dinner that he refused to tell me the name of. In fact, ON THE DRIVE THERE, he insisted we were going on a picnic. A PICNIC. In my pale coloured dress. INAPPROPRIATE. I proceeded to be quietly pensive all the way there, thinking up plans to not get dirt and grass on my lovely frock.

Imagine my surprise, then, when we pulled up to The Apellation, one of Australia’s best restaurants, with great accolade, and a place I had mentioned I would love to get the chance to eat at!

sharon pakir & stephen krygger

dressed to the nines!

The Apellation did NOT disappoint – not only was the food superb, but the service was quite literally one of the best I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant ever, and S and I had a ball. Between our courses, the staff had prepared several little surprise tastings of other items on the menu, and we proceeded to sup, sip, and dine our way through a fantastic meal with the best company each other could ask for!

As we walked out of the restaurant, we looked up into the starry sky, and S kissed me, and I wish I could capture that moment and bottle it – as fresh, giggly, chirpy and in love as we were right at the beginning of our relationship, with the open night sky and gentle breeze upon us, and AH it was just amazing.

We got home to the pavilion, and S suggested we change into pyjamas and sit out on our deck’s swing to look at the sky.

We sat on the swing, and cuddled, and S proceeded to go on a 30 minute speech, whilst, holding my face in his wonderful strong hands, all the reasons why he loved me. OH IT WAS JUST GLORIOUS.

And then he kneeled down in front of the swing, in front of me.

And then this is what went down:

S: I would love for you to be mine.

Me: Oh honey, I AM yours!

S: Ah, but I would love to make you mine.

Me: Oh honey bunch, i already told you I AM yours!


S (audible sigh): Shan, I really really really want you to be mine.

Me: But baby, I really really really am YOURS.


At this stage, S thinks that I’m a retard and perhaps he was thinking of re-negging on the WHOLE DEAL because let’s face it, HOW DUMB CAN HIS GIRLFRIEND BE?! I meanwhile, am just a happy girl. A swing, the stars, a man who loved me, who needed anything more?


He put ONE KNEE up.

And I gasped. And started hyperventilating. And the realisation of what was about to happen DAWNED on me.

And he smiled in the dark, star lined night. That glorious, handsome smile of his.

And pulled something out of his pocket. Whilst holding my hand tighter.

And uttered.




As tears streamed down my cheeks.

“Sharon, will you marry me?”


I don’t actually remember what happened for the next few minutes – but I know there was OVERWHELMING emotion. Crying, laughing, jumping around, hugging, screaming, and all that good stuff.

It. Was. Awesome.

AND, a few minutes later, I suddenly realised that in the midst of it all, I had entirely ignored THE RING!

I pulled away and asked “were you just holding a ring in your hands?!” and he laughed and said, “YES, do you WANT IT?!”

So he slipped it on. And ladies and gentleman, let’s just say the man IS A KEEPER – not only orchestrating the world’s most lavish, pampering and loving proposal, but also presenting me with a ring that I love, adore, and can’t stop looking at!!


So yes.




and most importantly….

S is going to be my wonderful wonderful husband. And I am officially, the luckiest girl ALIVE.

sharon pakir and steve krygger

the morning after at Seppeltsfield - 1st shot as ENGAGED lady and COUPLE!

See, wasn’t that story worth waiting for a blog post for? :)

Now of course, you’ll have to be INUNDATED with wedding planning posts. HA. I apologise in advance!!!



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