Global Warming by Singapore’s Super Tree Grove

Yes, the Gardens by the Bay are an amazing green initiative that uses waste from the city and turns it into energy to power the entire park. Then there’s the tap water, that is cleaned using reverse osmosis which turns sewage into safe drinking water. It’s absolutely genius and the epitome of zero-waste. Although on a grand scale, Singapore is doing a lot when it comes to sustainability, they don’t focus enough on changing the habits of their people or businesses.

Our recent travel adventures took us to Singapore! A city known for it’s cleanliness, passion for sustainability and of course, the Super Tree Grove at the Gardens by the Bay. Although Singapore was beautiful and I could spend weeks exploring it, I was a little disappointed by it’s hypocrisy when it comes to protecting the environment.

Yes, the Gardens by the Bay are an amazing green initiative that uses waste from the city and turns it into energy to power the entire park. Then there’s the tap water, that is cleaned using reverse osmosis which turns sewage into safe drinking water. It’s absolutely genius and the epitome of zero-waste.

Although on a grand scale, Singapore is doing a lot when it comes to sustainability, they don’t focus enough on changing the habits of their people or businesses. Example: When you arrive extra early for your flight at the Changi airport because you want to see why it’s considered the world’s best airport, you may run into a cool wall displaying information about Singapore and local customs…

One of these is the “correct way to drink kopi (traditional Singaporean coffee) where they tell you to do as the locals do and order it in a plastic bag and drink it with a plastic straw. Facepalming did not suffice, I wanted to head table when I read this…

During my visit to Singapore, I got to meet up with an old friend who I hadn’t seen for years. I told her all about my new zero-waste lifestyle and vegan diet, telling her how amazing it is that Singapore is doing so much to promote sustainability. She smiled and nodded but even she agreed that unfortunately, Singapore focuses too much on the details instead of the big picture.

Visiting the Gardens by the Bay was one of the highlights of my trip. But I was immediately disappointed by what I saw happening in the park. Restaurants, fast food places and other vendors selling food and items unnecessarily wrapped in plastic with no biodegradable or re-usable alternatives. I’m shocked at the slap in the face that these places are to all the efforts made to create this environmentally-friendly place.

Once I get the chance and find the right people to contact, I will issue a complaint to the Gardens of the Bay. They put so much effort into educating visitors and making a step forward but then you can’t even eat there without creating waste.

  • Is it really that hard to at least use paper instead of plastic?
  • Or how about creating a deposit system for nice re-usable containers to eat from?
  • Perhaps with a logo of the place, that can be bought as a souvenir or returned after use? If they can do this with beer cups at festivals in Europe, why not do it at a place that literally exists to promote sustainability and ways to save the planet?

Okay, rant over. Here’s one of the videos that you can watch at the Super Tree Grove about global warming and how we can still prevent the destruction of our beloved Earth.

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Ubud, Bali: A Vegan Food Paradise 2018

When I talked to my Indonesian friends about finding vegan food in Bali and they were skeptical. They told me that Indonesians are obsessed with their meat and all traditional dishes are loaded with animal products. I’ve always been able to find plenty of vegan options despite meat eaters claiming that I’ll starve to death in their country… so I wasn’t too worried but I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to feast on delicious unhealthy vegan comfort food. #firstworldveganproblems

When I talked to my Indonesian friends about finding vegan food in Bali and they were skeptical. They told me that Indonesians are obsessed with their meat and all traditional dishes are loaded with animal products. I’ve always been able to find plenty of vegan options despite meat eaters claiming that I’ll starve to death in their country… so I wasn’t too worried but I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to feast on delicious unhealthy vegan comfort food. #firstworldveganproblems

I was super excited when I first arrived in Ubud and saw a vegan buffet restaurant. I jumped up and down saying “we have to go-” but another all-you-can-eat buffet interrupted me. During the 10 minute drive we saw at least five places boasting vegan food and we looked at each other excitedly, hello more vegan food than we could possibly ever eat. Yes, there’s dessert too!

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Waste-Free Wednesdays: Intro to Zero-Waste Lifestyle

Recycling is the last option on the “R” list that we had drilled into our heads from a young age. Recently, the list has grown to include even more “R”s that come ahead of recycling. REFUSE, REDUCE, RE-USE, RE-PURPOSE, REPAIR snd finally, if all else fails, after you’ve re-used THEN re-purposed THEN repaired, THEN you should RECYCLE.

I have been on a journey towards a zero-waste lifestyle since the beginning of this year. What began as an item on my New Year’s Resolutions list sandwiched in between ‘lose weight’ and ‘leave China’ actually ended up changing the way I live and see the world.

Living in a rural area of Shanghai has really opened my eyes to the wasteful habits that plague the world we live in. It’s hard to describe the amount of single-use plastic I see littering the streets when I walk to and from work every day. Big cities on the other hand, especially in the West, produce more waste than you can possibly imagine, but it’s all very well hidden.

Until recently, most plastic produced by the USA was shipped to China and the responsibly to deal with it was shifted. But handing your trash to someone else to deal with is not the way to go. Just like simply throwing your recyclables into the allotted containers is not actually the best things you can do for the environment, despite it feeling like a good and productive thing to do.

Recycling is the last option on the “R” list that we had drilled into our heads from a young age. Recently, the list has grown to include even more “R”s that come ahead of recycling.

  1. REFUSE
  2. REDUCE
  3. RE-USE
  4. RE-PURPOSE
  5. REPAIR
  6. And finally, if all else fails, after you’ve re-used THEN re-purposed THEN repaired, THEN you should RECYCLE.

I have learned a lot about sustainability during my journey. Although I’ve been posting tips and updates on social media, a friend pointed out the other day that I haven’t been writing much about it on my blog… and that’s about to change!

After several people have asked me for tips on how to be less wasteful, I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned on my blog in the hopes that others will be inspired to make the world a better place.

One big obstacle that everyone needs to overcome to begin this journey is actually extremely simple and happens to be a good life lesson as well. Everyone needs to realize that ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Sure, when you see the careless wastefulness going on around you, it can be extremely discouraging. Living in China, where the entire population is addicted to plastic has made me question if what I am doing actually matters. They literally buy drinks in plastic-lined cups camouflaged as paper (#sneakystyrene), with plastic lids and plastic straws that they carry in a disposable PLASTIC BAG. But I had a long-term zero-waste friend knock some sense into me.

– “How many bags and bottles do you refuse every day?” She asked me.
– “At least 10,” I told her after doing the math. “But everyone else uses up to 20!”
– “But if you save 10 bags a day, how much is that in a year?”

3,650 bags that would end up in oceans, landfills or incinerated and turned into air pollution. Does that really sound like not making a difference?

Other than refusing plastic, one of the biggest differences I make when it comes to sustainability is being vegan. Don’t panic! I’m not going to tell you that you HAVE to become vegan to save the planet. Simply skipping one meat-meal can apparently save thousands of gallons of water so it doesn’t have to be all or nothing! There are many ways that you can change your diet to make a difference without doing anything “extreme”.

SHOP LOCALLY! If you eat meat, find a local butcher, preferably working with a smaller farm. Not only will your purchases directly help a hard-working family instead of a greedy corporation, but smaller farms tend to treat the animals slightly better plus you minimize the waste that comes from shipping the meat across the country or even from abroad.

I can’t emphasize this point enough: EVERY single seemingly minuscule decision that you make every day can make a HUGE impact – never forget that.

You shouldn’t limit shopping locally to animal products. Find local farmers markets for fruit and vegetables as opposed to stale, plastic-wrapped vegetables full of preservatives in large shopping centers. You can also find a local producer of handmade beauty and cleaning supplies. Not only will it benefit the local economy, but they will be a healthier alternative for you and the world around you.

For example, I buy all natural cleaning supplies made by an Australian couple living in Shanghai. Although they come in plastic bottles, the store offers a discount if you come with an empty bottle for a refill. If you find a similar store in your area, you will only ever need ONE bottle of laundry detergent, window/mirror cleaner, etc.

Of course you can also buy your ingredients in bulk and create your own cleaning supplies. It’s much easier that you would expect, but I’ll share recipes and tips in another blog post. If you’re just beginning your journey towards sustainability, there are many other things to start doing before you become obsessed with everything DIY (like I am).

There’s one more important thing to know about pursuing a zero-waste lifestyle. It may not be the most CONVENIENT way to live, but it definitely is CHEAPER. Yes, you read that right, it is much cheaper to avoid single-use plastic! Warning: you might have to occasionally sacrifice your comfort and immediate needs. But ONLY until you get the hang of it – once you’re properly equipped with your canvas bag, collapsable food container (affiliate link), aluminum straw and re-usable water waterbottle. Again, I’ll write more about this at a later time, but a quick example is buying a safety razor.

In China, a SAFETY RAZOR only costs $10 but in the USA or Europe they can cost up to $100. It can be overwhelming to spend $100 when a disposable razor is so cheap. But unless you lose it, one of these $100 razors is FOR LIFE. I cringe when I think about the countless Venus razors I’ve bought over the years… All you need to buy for a safety razor are blades, that come packaged in paper and cost close to nothing.

If you’re interested in learning more about a zero-waste lifestyle (which I still haven’t fully achieved, and probably never will because I will never stop using toilet paper), follow my blog and subscribe to my YouTube channel! I can’t wait to share my tips and stories about my journey to zero-waste travel as well as all of my successes and hilarious failures.

Have you made any positive changes towards a zero-waste lifestyle? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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Avocado Smoothies in Da Lat, Vietnam

I first heard about avocado smoothies on a half-day Countryside Tour of Da Lat. Vietnam is famous for their avocados and July just happens to be the prime season! They are a delicious mix of fresh avocados, condensed milk, a scoop of durian ice cream topped with fluffy whipped cream that I could have gone without because it was already so rich that I couldn’t finish!

I first heard about avocado smoothies on a half-day Countryside Tour of Da Lat. Vietnam is famous for their avocados and July just happens to be the prime season! We were told that you can get them anywhere in the market, but it took us over an hour of searching, walking in circles and asking confused vendors where to find them.

Although I’m sure it can be veganized on request, I had this smoothie before I made the decision to go vegan. It was a delicious mix of fresh avocados, condensed milk, a scoop of durian ice cream topped with fluffy whipped cream that I could have gone without because it was already so rich that I couldn’t finish!

The hidden spot where we found this delicacy was hidden behind some vendors right next to the large monument in the middle of a roundabout. For better directions and visuals, watch the video below:

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Topside Cafe 2018: Block Island, Rhode Island

Topside Cafe is a great place to grab a coffee or enjoy a meal while waiting for the ferry. It has great prices, vegan as well as meat options and their coffee is absolutely delicious! We visited on a cold winter day and enjoyed their vegan smoothie bowl while my father-in-law munched on his pulled pork sandwich. Their chai latte was amazing and our only regret is that we didn’t get a chance to sample their lunch specials.

Topside Cafe is a great place to grab a coffee or enjoy a meal while waiting for the ferry. It has great prices, vegan as well as meat options and their coffee is absolutely delicious! We visited on a cold winter day and enjoyed their vegan smoothie bowl while my father-in-law munched on his pulled pork sandwich. Their chai latte was amazing and our only regret is that we didn’t get a chance to sample their lunch specials.

Check it out next time you’re on Block Island, you won’t regret it!

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Crazy House, Da Lat, Vietnam 2017

The name of this place, the Crazy House, is no exaggeration. We got lost soon after entering since there are dozens of rooms on various floors with several ways to travel between them. You will find bizarre animal statues and beautiful views of the city – this might be one of the highest points in the city.

The name of this place, the Crazy House, is no exaggeration. We got lost soon after entering since there are dozens of rooms on various floors with several ways to travel between them. You will find bizarre animal statues and beautiful views – this might be one of the highest points in the city.

Formally known as the Hang Nga Villa, the Crazy House was built in 1990 in a unique and intentionally bizarre style. Designed by Dang Viet Nga, this eccentric architect wanted the house to help people reconnect with nature. Other than attracting visitors during the day, the Crazy House is also a functioning hotel!

During my visit in July 2017, there are still areas of it that are being built and refined. This actually only adds to the craziness so I had zero complaints. Another thing that makes it so exciting to visit, is that a place like this wouldn’t even be legal in some countries because of safety issues. My clumsy husband may have hit his head at least twice in some low areas and I kept worrying about slipping on the high “bridges” with low rails. But that’s all part of the awesomeness – the designer is clearly a genius.

In addition to all the great views of the city, this place is also great for relaxing and enjoying a cup of coffee or fresh juice. The cafe at the bottom has great prices and some unique drinks like coffee enhanced with fresh banana, which was surprisingly delicious. Just be careful sitting by the pond for too long, I was eaten alive by mosquitoes that I always seem to attract.

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Da Lat Backpackers Hostel Review

We had very high expectations for this hostel because of all the raving reviews and we were not disappointed! My husband and I booked this hostel last minute after having problems with a different hostel. The staff were helpful and welcoming even before we arrived!

We had very high expectations for this hostel because of all the raving reviews and we were not disappointed! My husband and I booked this hostel last minute after having problems with a different hostel. The staff were helpful and welcoming even before we arrived!

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Although we had originally planned on only spending two full days in Da Lat, after arriving and seeing all the cheap and exciting activities that we discovered through the hostels trip book, we decided to stay an extra night. We arrived right before dinner so we ate delicious free dinner (typical Vietnamese food, all homemade) and the host even offered us homemade alcohol and took shots with us in a traditional Vietnamese way before we started the meal.

Our first night there we booked two trips, a countryside tour (250,000 Dong each) and canyoning ($45 each) while the staff recommended what company to go with and advised us on what day is better for which depending on the weather forecast. Needless to say, both trips were amazing since the hostel goes out of their way to choose good tour companies. They also didn’t push more expensive tours on us. They explained that the countryside tour, which we expected to pay almost 700,000 Dong each is possible to do with a group for cheaper and recommended a cheaper canyoning trip with a company that takes more photos.

The free breakfast was as good as dinner with several choices of baguettes with different kinds of omelet. You also get a coffee, tea or juice with your breakfast. Having two free meals a day really saved us a lot of money, especially since this hostel wasn’t more expensive than any of the others we looked at – and we stayed in a private room.

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The hostel is in a great location only a 15-minute walk to the huge lake. We took a taxi from the bus stop which only cost 70,000 Dong but we walked everywhere else because the Da Lat is small and the backstreets are fascinating. The hostel is also only about a kilometer from the famous Crazy House which is a must see.

In addition to great staff, delicious free food, the great tour offers and comfortable soft beds (most hostels in Vietnam have rock-hard beds), the hostel is extremely clean and welcoming. I would definitely recommend anyone visiting Da Lat to book here! I honestly couldn’t recommend it more.

Oh, and they have very cheap and quick laundry service and return everything ironed and folded! Here’s a video of the canyoning tour that they suggested:

 

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Snow Day in Shanghai, China 2018

Shanghai experienced one it’s heaviest snowfalls in years and it shut down schools throughout the city. Rolls of non-slip carpets covered the Shanghai’s slipperiest paths and people were warned to stay indoors if possible or waddle like a penguin. Snow selfies took over everyone’s WeChat Moments and giggling children ran outside to build snowmen. Here’s what the snow day on January 25th, 2018 looked like…

While an unusually cold winter has been causing chaos around the world, the focus has been mainly on Europe and the USA. Although you can’t compare several feet of snow that’s keeping people from leaving their homes in the West, it’s surprising what a little humid snowfall can do to a city that isn’t equipped to handle sleet.

Shanghai experienced one it’s heaviest snowfalls in years and it shut down schools throughout the city. Rolls of non-slip carpets covered the Shanghai’s slipperiest paths and people were warned to stay indoors if possible or waddle like a penguin. Snow selfies took over everyone’s WeChat Moments and giggling children ran outside to build snowmen. Here’s what the snow day on January 25th, 2018 looked like:

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Da Lat Countryside Tour: Weasel Poop Coffee Plantation

The last stop on our $10 Countryside Tour of Da Lat was the weasel poop coffee plantation. The first thing you should know about it, is that the animal that eats and poops out the coffee bean is not actually a weasel. It’s a luwak. The second thing you need to know is that it’s not unique to Vietnam no matter what the guide will tell you.

How the concept of weasel poop coffee was discovered, I don’t know and I’d like to keep it that way. Basically, the animal eats coffee beans and chooses only the best ones to eat. This ensures that all the coffee that comes out of the process, pun intended, is of the highest quality. While it’s inside the weasel, it gets fermented which adds to the flavor.

Once it’s pooped out, the beans are collected and dried in the sun. Then they are thoroughly washed and finally, they are carefully peeled. So the actual coffee been was never in contact with the poop, only it’s shell was. That makes it a lot less gross, right?

Well, the grossest part of the entire process isn’t the poop but the treatment of the animals. They are kept in tiny cages and only fed coffee beans. At this particular plantation you can see a bunch of these luwaks in their cages and they don’t look particularly clean or happy. Although I tried the coffee at the time, I wouldn’t do it again because of the exploitation of these animals. But I’m not here to preach animal rights!

As I previously mentioned, Vietnamese people will claim that weasel coffee originated in Vietnam. It’s just like pierogi in Europe. Russians, Ukrainians, Poles and probably several other nationalities claim that the dumplings originated from their country. As a Ukrainian I will tell you that duh, they are Ukrainian. But I’m clearly biased…

Several other countries in South East Asia, including Indonesia will claim that luwak coffee is theirs. In Bali I visited a coffee plantation that claimed the coffee as their own and I’m willing to bet that Indonesia isn’t the only place that tries to take credit for it. Then there’s Thailand that does the same thing with elephants and every single of these countries will also boast that their coffee is the best and most expensive in the world.

Back to the Da Lat coffee plantation. The multi-floored building was beautiful, smelled amazing and had the most spectacular view of the mountains and coffee fields. We drank some coffee, did some souvenir shopping on the top floor and pet all the cute dogs. Apparently the owner loves to rescue dogs and there were at least 20 living at the coffee plantation. I wonder if dog poop coffee will ever become a trend…

The entire Da Lat Countryside tour about 6 hours and included a rose garden, minority village, Buddhist pagoda, elephant waterfall, lunch, silk farm, cricket farm and the weasel poop coffee plantation. It was an informative and fun tour and our guide was enthusiastic and insightful. I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone visiting Da Lat, but remember to haggle if they try to charge you more than $10 per person.

At the end of the tour they made sure to ask if we wanted to get dropped off at our hotels or somewhere else and most of the group ended up at the famous Crazy House. We decided to check it out too and had a great time. I’ll tell you all about it next time, so stay tuned!

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Da Lat Countryside Tour: Cricket Farm

The second to last stop on the $10 Da Lat Countryside Tour was a cricket farm! Forget what your mother told you when you were a toddler sticking bugs in your mouth. They DO belong there! As long as they are raised for human consumption, that is.

Crickets are a great source of protein and contain enzymes that some scientists believe can cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Millions of people in the world are eating insects this very second and the United Nations is trying to encourage more people to start eating them! Other than the health benefits, the environmental impact of switching from cattle to crickets is unbelievable. You can read more about that here.

Unlike most of the people on the tour, my husband and I have done our fair share of cricket eating. Although they are not our favorite insect to snack on, we were excited to see the farm and eat some cricket-enhanced snacks!

The farm was much smaller than we expected, which made perfect sense. It takes very little space, not to mention resources, to farm crickets. The crickets are kept in large tubs that they can’t jump out of and they are fed banana leaves. They are organized in tubs based on their age and are starved for three days before they are ready to be eaten.

After walking around the farm and seeing the different stages of growth, we were sat at a large round table. First, we took a shot of rice wine, a common tradition in Vietnam before a group meal. Then we moved on to tea and crickets! The crickets were deliciously fried and almost everyone in the group gave them a try.

Isaac and I probably ended up eating the most, but we did share with a little kitten that lived on the farm and seemed to love fried crickets even more than we did. Before leaving for the last part of the tour, Isaac bought a bag of cricket chips and if it had been cheaper, he would have bought the cricket-infused rise wine too.

Fun fact: if you think insects are yucky and that you’ll never try them, keep in mind that you already have. I’m not talking about the spiders that supposedly crawl into your mouth when you sleep – yuck, that better be a myth. If you’re a fan of beer, bread or cereal it is likely that you eat at least a hundred insects a year. Look into it if you don’t believe me! Also, a lot of red dyes used in food are made from a red beetle. Carmine is a great alternative to the many common dyes that are tested on animals that are then euthanized.

Next stop: coffee plantation!

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