This fellow is from one of Singapore‘s more unusual attractions – the Haw Par Villa theme park, also called Tiger Balm Gardens. Originally built in the 1930s by the creators of Tiger Balm to showcase Chinese folklore and mythology, the park is known for its bizarre and gruesome Ten Courts of Hell with such creepy statues and dioramas as a human-faced crab and bloody dismembered torsos (apparently it all makes sense if you know your Chinese mythology). It’s been relatively deserted in recent years, making it all the more bizarre. You can see more photos of the park in Flickr user SingaPaulie‘s photostream. The MRT metro line was extended this fall and you can now ride the Circle Line train to the park.
A friend of mine, freelance photographer Jane Shepherdson, was recently in New Delhi and rode on the city’s metro (subway system). She captured this odd sign about what’s prohibited for passengers to carry.
Some of it is predictable, such as explosives, guns, and radioactive materials. You also can’t carry “manure of any kind” (including your own, one would suppose) or rags. That includes oily rags in case you’re wondering.
What really caught her eye was the prohibition against passengers carrying “Human skeleton, ashes, and part of Human body”.
Makes sense to me. When I’m on public transport I only want to share it with the living. What’s scary, though, is that they wouldn’t have put this sign up unless someone had actually carried body parts on the metro. So if you’re going to New Delhi, please, leave the body parts in your hotel room.
Knocked up abroad has been on a bit of a hiatus as my travel schedule has slowed and the due date has sped up. Feel free to catch up with posts on pregnancy travel, Turkish superstitions, medical care, and naming children.
I’m into the final month of my pregnancy in Istanbul and that means the countdown is on to get stocked up with wee tiny baby things, garishly colored toys and furniture, and gadgets I never knew I would need. If you’ve ever been baby shopping, either for yourself or for a gift, you know it can be intimidating. Specialty boutiques and megastores are overrun with all sorts of contraptions and devices, in many varieties and brands, organized in ways that are overwhelming to all but the most seasoned of parents. Now try doing this shopping in a foreign country, in another language, with very limited space, and a semi-nomadic expat lifestyle and you’ll understand why I’ve put it off until, as the Turks say, the egg is at the door.
My “home” is in Brooklyn, New York, but I’ve spent less than a week there in the past 14 months. My current home in Istanbul is very small but fully furnished and outfitted with many storage cabinets (Turks dislike visible clutter) but little floor space. My husband and I have been heresince last April on an open-ended work assignment with no end date in sight. We may end this year back in Brooklyn, still in Istanbul, or in another city and country altogether. Given our situation, I’m trying to accumulate as little as possible and try to cut through the “must-have” baby lists to the bare essentials and stuff I won’t mind leaving behind in six months.
%Gallery-126823%In many ways, Turkey is a great place to have a baby, as Turks adore children and are happy to cater to them (someone should commission a study on the correlation between Mediterranean countries and baby-craziness, there must be something in the olive oil). Most malls have an area if not a whole floor of stores dedicated to kids, including local chains like Joker and E-Bebek (that’s e-baby), as well as many branches of UK chain Mothercare. While they all carry most of the same brands as in America and western Europe, the websites and store info is generally in Turkish, meaning a lot of time spent with a dictionary and translation site when researching products. Also unfortunate is the usual Turkish sales approach of hovering. Generally when you walk into a store in Istanbul, a sales person marches up to you, says “hoş geldiniz” (Turkish for welcome) and then proceeds to silently follow you around the store until you ask a question or flee the shop in paranoia (I usually flee in search of a shop with sales help who can’t be bothered to look up from their texting). This is the practice in nearly every store other than touristy carpet shops, and Turkish friends will tell me they are expecting me to take the lead and tell them my needs or tell them to buzz off. I found this hard to do in baby stores and instead tried to do much of my browsing online so I was prepared to purchase in stores.
The big ticket item on my list (as with many other expecting parents) is a stroller. I wanted something that could work from birth to toddlerhood, that could serve as a sleeping bassinet for the first few months (no room for a crib now) and be versatile enough to travel the world. Earlier in the pregnancy we contemplated a shopping trip to somewhere relatively nearby like Amsterdam or Barcelona where they must sell the chicest and most practical of European city strollers, but ended up deciding to buy something available in Istanbul that we could get parts and service for nearly anywhere in the world. We don’t own a car in either Istanbul or New York (in fact, I’m in possession of a soon-to-expire learner’s permit), but we got a car seat from a Turkish colleague to use on taxi rides and future road trips that can fit onto many strollers with an adapter. For Istanbul, the stroller needed to be tough enough to handle many hills, uneven sidewalks and cobblestone streets, but be light enough to tote up New York subway stairs and navigate narrow supermarket aisles. After researching dozens of strollers, spending many soul-destroying hours watching demo and review videos online, and testing a few out in person, I have determined the Perfect Stroller does not exist. Since I have no nursery to decorate and few other things to buy, I was able to splash out on a tricked-out Almost Perfect Stroller (I won’t name brands until I have a chance to test drive, but it’s one you will see in most yuppie coffee shops around the world) and will buy something cheap and lightweight when I am back in a city without metro station elevators and helpful Turks.
After the stroller was chosen, there are a few other items necessary to many new parents and designed well for travelers. As is common in many modern Istanbul apartments, we have no bathtub (Turks see them as unclean, and even the traditional hamam bath is more about the steaming than soaking) and tiny sinks in our bathroom and kitchen. I was resigned to buying a big plastic tub that I would eventually leave behind, but then found this cool device by American design company Puj. It’s essentially a glorified piece of foam that folds into a seat you can wedge into the sink, but unfolds flat and can be hung on a wall to dry. I imagine I can also pack it in the bottom of a suitcase for travel. One item on my list for my next US visit is the Nest from Phil&Teds: a rather ingenius travel carrier that can carry all the gear and then work as a bed or cot at night. Our parents would say a suitcase and pillow could serve the same purpose, but this meets more safety standards than a Samsonite and fits in the overhead bin too. Finally, we also wanted a baby carrier to go hands-free and stroller-less when traveling. There are upteen options out there, and we ended up with a Sleepy Wrap (another glorified bit of fabric with a nice label on it but several friends swear by it) purchased at a terrific speciality shop in Singapore. Fun fact: the Turkish word for baby carrier is kanguru.
The most fun things to shop for are, of course, baby clothes. Few people can resist tiny t-shirts, onesies, and dresses, and most parents can expect to receive many items as gifts. I stocked up on the basics at Mothercare and other clothing stores (we do have Baby Gap and even Baby Zara in Turkey), but discovered a treasure trove of baby shops recently in Eminönü, a crowded shopping area between the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. In these local shops, I found a range of clothes from the adorable to the downright odd, some with Turkish phrases and many more with strange “Turk-lish.” Check out the gallery above for some of the best.
Now that my apartment is filling up with baby things, I feel just about ready for my due date on July 20 without feeling weighed down by useless gadgets. Any other expat or frequent traveler parents out there who can recommend products? Feel free to leave them in comments below.
Stay tuned for a final pre-birth Knocked up abroad (pending baby’s cooperation, but they say first babies are usually late) on Turkish vs. American attitudes toward babies and pregnant women. Until then, catch up on the other posts here.
This year marks the 76th anniversary of the Moscow metro system. From the public to the private areas, the stunning architectural images showcase one of the world’s most fascinating transportation masterpieces, far exceeding the beauty of those in the United States.
Opened in 1935 with one 11 kilometer line and 13 stations, it was the first underground rail system in the then Soviet Union. Today, the system has 182 stations and a route length of 301.2 kilometers and is the second most heavily-used rapid transit system, just behind Tokyo.
Take a look at this magnificent panoramic image gallery:
Phoenix’s Metro light rail system opened three years ago but frustrated riders by leaving off a key destination – the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
In early 2013, plans have been announced for the opening of Sky Train which will light rail’s 44th Street station with Terminal 4 and replace the current shuttle-bus system.
According to airport projections and the Arizona Republic, only about 10%, of the 13,000 daily Sky Train riders will transfer to and from light rail. Last year, around 800 riders a day transferred to the free shuttle buses. The majority of users are expected to be airport employees who park in the 44th Street station parking lot.
Reports suggest that the light rail connector will clear up both congestion and confusion, as signs to the existing shuttle bus transport is not clearly marked.
Sky Harbor is negotiating with major airlines about providing check-in and boarding-pass services at the 44th Street transfer station, said Jay DeWitt, project manager at the Phoenix Aviation Department that operates the airport.
“This is one of a kind in the United States. It’s the new front door to the airport,” DeWitt said.
Ultimately, pending funding, a $1.5 billion system linking the entire airport is envisioned.