COUNTRY 17 – Singapore: The Lion City

I started off believing all men were equal. I now know that’s the most unlikely thing ever to have been, because millions of years have passed over evolution, people have scattered across the face of this earth, been isolated from each other, developed independently, had different intermixtures between races, peoples, climates, soils… I didn’t start off with that knowledge. But by observation, reading, watching, arguing, asking, that is the conclusion I’ve come to.


– Lee Kwan Yew, The Man & His Ideas, 1997
 

There are lots of realization for the family during this particular family travel to our 17th country! We attribute this realizations as part of getting used to the routine of being together in a foreign land for the first time. After all, human nature tends to survive frequent changes and adapt to adapt well, if that makes sense to anyone at all. It sure makes sense to all of us, even the kids get used to seeing something new for the first time and not make such a big deal out it. Early in life, we believe, it is a real blessing to have these kids get accustomed to quick and frequent changes. Their tolerance to changes gets higher as we go visit one country at a time.

Indeed, life is all about changes and at the same, we also realized that we need to stay true to our personal brand values. Early on, we decided that our family will not patronize places where it violates animal rights like zoos. With this, the family decided not to visit the Animal Safari, day and night, in which most of the tourists who visited Singapore highly recommended to us. It is not right to treat animals without care for their freedom for touristic purposes. As our kids justified, there will be Africa and the Amazon to appreciate animal habitants in the future.

This awesome moment! Kids wanted to visit Singapore Botanical Garden over Universal Studios Singapore!

The kids also decided against visiting Universal Studios! The fun rides with the high humidity was not just worth it for the kids especially with varying heights for fun ride requirements for the three of them! Disneyland only reminds us of queuing for brief moment of rides and we didn’t want to waste any more time queuing in city new for us. Instead, we explored the awesome and huge Singapore Botanical Gardens, explored and met a longtime friend at the Gardens by the Bay and got lost way too many times at Singapore’s very impressive transportation system! 

The Metro, The Bus and All Around Singapura…with Umbrella!

 

Separately, Turknoy Mum and Turknoy Dad have been to Singapore during their single days as explorer-wannabe. Seeing the same country at different times of our lives does make a lot of difference. There were no night life for us, this time around, instead, we have great family moments which includes dragging the kids while they sleep in the MRT going from one line to the next line to reach our hotel.

We have booked our hotel at Sentosa Island which takes another mono trail or cable ride from the harbor. It was fun seeing the metropolis city from top with kids! We have weird family discussions only we could relate to and it is very previous! 

We had intimate moments with Merlion, both by the Marina and in Sentosa Island, where we talked about great leadership in Singapore and why discipline, not necessarily democratic, can work for a country. A country can have similar resources and geographical location on Earth, yet with different style of leaderships, every country can be very unique at its achievement in terms of infrastructure, economics, culture and diversity!

Being an Islamic country, the kids find it amusing that it tolerates all the other religion as manifested by its temples for Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and its churches as well. Yes, we are not created with the same belief. Isn’t that the essence of faith? To trust into something, to believe that it is real, despite being surrounded by other belief system. It is very similar with commitment in most aspects, to be surrounded by lots of choices, yet making the same choice over and over, to be with family, to be with the chosen partner, for better or for worse.

What we think faith is not is what others think faith is. Faith is not choosing a belief system just because we are recruited into it, for socialization, for acceptance.

All these discussions are witnessed by the Merlion. And we completely agree with the great Singapore leader, we are not created equal. We realize that every time we travel to new country, seeing unique facial features of the local, exploring different landscapes in the country. Yet, inequality makes life interesting and makes it perfect just the way it is, worth setting goals and objectives to live for, a quest worth our while. 

And we bet, the Merlion will agree with us! Maybe even Lee Kwan Yew. 

Qatar 3: Al Zubarah – Beach, Port and UNESCO Heritage!

 
All who are running on their father’s footsteps, are anyway running. – Qatari Proverb, which means the son will always do what the father does.
 

always fun at the beach early morning! the color of the sea is the color of the public transpo in Qatar!

Did you know that Al Zubarah is the remaining complete plan of an Arabian pearl-merchant town. Al Zubarah is a very unique archeological evidence to the human interaction with both sea and the harsh desert environment of the region.
 

Al Zubarah Fort

Kuwait traders founded the Al Zubarah village, imagine the geography now! When Al Zubarah was nominated to be a UNESCO heritage sites, our family was cynical about the entire UNESCO qualifications as we have been in the country for quite a few number of years. Yet, we started traveling, we have come to realize that Qatar is indeed a country full of treasures. It’s the harsh weather that is fascinating about the country and how the citizens and residents, then and now, respond to it. It’s a peninsula country surrounded by the Persian Gulf with mainly desert terrain and yet, there are lots of treasures in any form with a defined Islamic and Qatari culture embedded in daily lives.
 

old house in old desert village
somewhere in the middle of the desert – a carving yet to be interpreted by archeologists in Qatar.

We have been to other UNESCO heritage sites with less. We are proud Qatar residents that this site is included in the ever famous UNESCO Heritage list and we take every opportunity to visit the area whenever we could!

Discoveries in desert are always golden!
 
family discoveries in the desert are worth more than gold!

The pristine bluish-green beach is a site worth driving 2 hours already! Add in the architecture of the port and the history hidden it the archeological site and if we are lucky, there are camels and sunset!
 

It’s a guaranteed full, stimulating and fun day of exploring in Al Zubarah!

sunset and history in desert, we just love this kind of day

 

Philippines 1 – Indang, Cavite: Kalamay, Severino De Las Alas and Bonifacio!

 
“A wise traveler never despises his own country.” William Hazlitt

Mabuhay, Indang!

A wiser traveler loves and promotes the home town, says our Turknoy Family! This may be a biased post as Turknoy Mum grew up in the serene and quiet town of Indang long before it gets too populated. She is “Tubong Indang” means one of her parents is originally from the town. Indang and by default, the province of Cavite, will always be home sweet home for our traveling family!
 

Likod Bahay!

The first time the Turkish husband, then friend, stepped on the evergreen side road/ highway of Indang, he fell in love and maybe realized there and then that he should marry the Pinay so he could have access to the beautiful town. The trees that seem to grow everywhere, the fresh air, the helpful and exotic bugs that seem to be so appropriately accessible to humans.
 
The thing about traveling to all the beautiful places like Himalayas of Nepal, Mediterranean coast of France, Italy, Greece and Turkey , fjords of Scandinavian countries and countries on the Indian Ocean like Sri Lanka and The Maldives , is that glory feeling of “we also have this back home.” Not in a gigantic, enormous touristic scale, but in an awesome village scale which day in and day out was taken for granted because it’s “normal.”
 
Yet, the beauty of Indang is beyond normal. Our family being an expat in a desert country appreciates the green, the fresh, non-air-conditioned-required weather way, the cold water straight from tap quite blissfully whenever we are home. One would consider these the simple things, yet these are the exactly the very same luxuries an industrialized country is spending their money and effort to have, day-in and day-out, like “normal” in their environment.
Elegant housing compounds here in the Middle East even have cooling system for the shower for summer period. We have that in Indang every season!

Most flats (apartments) in Europe strive to fit in their plants in their very petite balcony, while we have hectares of farm in Indang to toil!

Industrialized countries pay way too much money for authentic “organic” dishes, yet all our dishes are organic in Indang, at least back in the days!
Fresh air. Sun. Rain. It’s as real in Indang as true love in our family. That’s poetic and we can’t help not to be romantic when Indang!

We may be able to say these things to all villages in the Philippines, but hey, again, we had a disclaimer for this post earlier! This is a home sweet home post. Yet, there are great things that are uniquely Indang in which our family are proud of through this years. We have three. Obviously, there would be more but since our stay in the town is limited, we try our best to keep this post up-to-date when whenever we go home.

1. Kalamay Buna

Kalamay Indang is a delectable sweet delicacy of glutinous powderized rice called malagkit mixed with coconut milk and brown sugar (panutsa) – this should be on your bucketlist to eat in Philippines. 

Kalamay Buna – Only in Indang!

And this is our favorite when we go back to our work country with all the kalamay we can buy. Kalamay and Turkish Coffee. It’s like the mixed of our Pinay Mum and Turkish Dad. Sometimes, the best of both world meets every breakfast!

Kalamay and Turkish Coffee seems meant to be together! 🦄🦄💞

  2. Severino De Las Alas



Cavite State University will always be Don Severino De Las Alas for oldies alumni like the Turknoy Mum. Severino De Las Alas will always be a reflection of a real Tubong Indang! 
Who is Severino De Las Alas? 
Translated into English by Turknoy’s Mum.
SEVERINO DE LAS ALAS
Patriot. Teacher. Philanthropist. Secretary of Internal Affairs during the First Republic of the Philippines.
He was born January 8, 1851. Attended San Juan de Letran and completed his Law Degree at University of Sto. Tomas.
One of the prominent signatory of the Biak-na-Bato Constitution.
(Side note: This is really important – Biak-na-Bato Constitution. This called for the separation of the Philippines from the Spanish Monarchy.The End of Colonization period!)
Elected twice for two periods as President of Indang Municipality. (1906-1909 and 1909-1912)
Died at Indang, Cavite on 4th November 1918.

Severino De Las Alas

The Turkish side of family getting to know any Kabitenyo should be proud of!

 
3. Bonifacio – Not as popular as the Balintawak Bonifacio momument but nothing less historic.

Indang Town Proper is where Bonifacio was impronised for some time

 
Limbon Indang , Cavite

Laban! Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalangan at Katapangtapangang Katipunan!

We have three uniquely Indang for now, hope there will be more in this post, soon! 
Our family is proudly from Indang, Cavite. We may not say “ahuy” or not even fluent Tagalog like Cavitenos but our hearts will have huge Indang written on it.

COUNTRY 16 – Georgia: Awesome Mountain Views and Turkey Way Back The 80s 

 
“The dog was asked:

Why do you bark? : To scare the wolves.

Why do you wag your tail? What do you think, am I not afraid of wolves?”

– Gregorian Proverb

 

To Travel is To Live

It’s Country 16 and are we are just warming up to family travel and the kids! On this trip, we have combined low cost airlines, with connecting flights both way and absolutely wonderful, albeit a little dangerous road trip using the country’s public transportation! Indeed, one of the highlights of our visit to the country is the Metro fun! Almost 45-degree inclined escalator for two minutes made our hearts excited for several times! Who knew metro escalator could also be a fun ride for kids and adults?! 

Tbilisi Metro escalators are pure delight! seriously fun!

During this trip , we also tried everything local. Well, this is not really saying much because Georgia’s border to the south is Turkey (which is one of our home country!)

Checking our quest status (100 countries in 10 years!) by far, we have achieved 16/100 in three years, it’s really a good feeling to settle in our family’s priorities in life. It’s exhilarating, most of the time, scary sometimes, yet that family satisfaction is reaching to new heights every time we explore another country. We bark loud, we wag our tails and enjoy life in dogs’ years.

We said it again and again, that there are great benefits when traveling with kids, especially when traveling becomes a lifestyle for the family. The routine of preparing for the journey, the joy of seeing new things, the body clock adjustments, that jet lag feeling. All familiar things leading to something new. 

We have explored the city Tbilisi in less than two days and have explored the nearby mountainous city Kazbegi in just one day! Our interaction with the local is limited to public transportation and the local shops we have enjoyed, yet there is something about the Gregorian hospitality we are so familiar with that we love. The country feels like Turkey way back in the 1980s. Most of the locals do not speak English yet, although the country had opened up tourism to nearby countries, with the visa-free privileges!

Overlooking the capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi enjoying the summer weather. Found the tree of gold and fountain of youth.. we wish! 🦄🦄😍❤️🦄
Overlooking the capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi enjoying the summer weather. Found the tree of gold and fountain of youth.. we wish! 🦄🦄😍❤️🦄
Bridge of Peace, Tbilisi, Georgia
Old Town Tbilisi

A family of five coming from Qatar, we would spend more going to UAE with the visa alone, compared to going to exploring Georgia and staying in a not-so-fancy B&B! It’s a nice long weekend getaway alternative for the GCC countries residence. Of course, we still recommended going to Turkey as nothing beats the history, the landscape and architecture of the cities of our beloved Turkiye. Yet, Georgia, is a close second choice for us, if we are to include travel costs as a defining factor.

Mt. Kazbek at Kazbegi, three hours road trip away from Tblisi
Gergeti Trinity Church! Best way to pray and wish on top of the mountain, reception maybe better! 🤗🤗

Georgia – warm hospitality, awesome mountain landscapes and wine culture! The country is surely a bliss break from desert work. God-willing, we get to enjoy the country in winter season, how we would love that for sure!

Happiest feet have wornout shoes – Turknoy Travels 100

Qatar 2: Sculpture in the Desert Nature Reserve


“I consider space to be a material. The articulation of space has come to take precedence over other concerns. I attempt to use sculptural form to make space distinct.” – Richard Serra
 

One hot sunny afternoon . We were the very first to see the art installion!
Three years on, another hot, sunny, beautiful summer day in Broque Nature Reserve enjoying Richard Serra’s Art Installations

Another favorite weekend place for our family is the Brouq Nature Reserve especially when the the Richard Serra art installations of four steel plates, over fourteen metres in height each with their perfect alignments has been completed in the reserve. Modern steel art in our favorite country by a well-respected artist in his field. That sounds spectacular to call Qatar home for us.

The art by Richard Serra is titled East-West/ West- East. We love the desert nature reserve and wide desert space with its unique limestone formation all over the art installations. The landscape is simply breathtaking. Especially we look far out and see the span of Persian Gulf and walk along its beach line.

Borooq Nature Reserve is really a unique destination in Qatar!

Add in a good desert weather, amidst the season, hot and humid or cold and windy, it’s a full day out for the family. There’s no wrong weather, only wrong clothes, as we always say, so we always come prepared whenever we come to Brouq Nature Reserve.

Limestone formations are such a joy to climb, different textures than sand , soil or dunes!

limestones formation, always a joy to conquer!
top of the world of limestones formation

This place never fails to make us appreciate the beauty of desert landscape and its wonder. There is always beauty in our surrounding, even without the green! The grass is always not better when it’s greener. At some awesome times, the grass is better when it’s wild, free and growing in the desert.

Isn’t it a wonder how some living things thrive in the barren desert? Awesome wonder of nature! And wonder of life.. 🙂

 

This husband/ wife photo is taken by our eldest Turknoy inspired an ode to a 10-year-old -desert-love

 Ten years together. 
 East West/ West East 

North South/ South North.. 

 Together yet not interdependent. 

 You are you. I am I. You I/ I You. 

 Because being together is a choice. 

Not dependency. ❤️❤️❤️ 

Qatar 1: Singing Sand Dunes of Qatar

“What makes the desert so beautiful,” said the Little Prince, “is that it hides a well.”
 

“They’re sleeping in there or else they are yawning. Only the children are pressing their noses against the windowpanes.” “Only the children know what they are looking for.” “All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.” “What makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere it hides a well…” (Quotes from The Little Prince)

Our family didn’t love traveling instantly. It was a slow courting process for the parents and kids to love exploring. We used to be conformist to any society’s standards. Got married, checked! Got kids, checked! Put the kids in the best school we could possible afford, checked! Went to church and mosque religiously, checked!

Life became routine and predictable. We are very grateful. That is one value our family will always have – being grateful to whatever circumstances and predictability life hands to us. Yet, we can’t help but hear the silent questions of our hearts and minds.

“AND THEN WHAT?!”

 
What happens when a family wants something more? What happens when every family member questions all society’s standards? We are in our journey and we don’t have the answers just yet but this we are very sure of: When you start questioning the validity and existence of one norm, such as education and traditional family lifestyle, there is no turning back. We just had to question all norms and the “why” we do the things we do day in and day out, like robots, like zombies, like programmed applications in a matrix.
 
That is why we like hanging out in the desert. The Singing Sand Dunes of Qatar close to Al Kharara is our favorite place in Qatar, whatever the weather! Yes, even in the middle of summer when the temperature is scorching 55++ degree- Celsius!

Sand dunes in the winter

 
Sand dunes in the summer!

There is something about the beauty of the sand dunes, dependent to the blowing of the wind, yet standing firm and proud to its desert background while humming its sand dune songs!

We may be an ordinary expat family in Qatar, yet we have our ambitions and goals as family. We go where the wind blows, especially with the unpredictable world economy nowadays, yet to stand firm and proud to our family’s quests and questioning while we hum our family quests song unique from all the songs of other family!
 

Sand dunes are better explored bare foot!

The Singing Sand Dunes of Qatar is a must-see for all Qatar residents, visitors and tourists! During winter, this is the perfect place of hanging out with friends for a BBQ and bon fire, sand duning, sand tobogganing, climbing cardio exercises and a lot more activities! It’s a great hang out for kids.
no filter !
 
Great playground for kids with free play-all-you can sand dunes! Our family has seen the sunrise and sunset from the Singing Sand Dunes of Qatar, both spectacular nature wonder at work.
 
Most of the time, what we actually question in life has no right and wrong answers. Those who claim, they have it all figured out and they know the right answers are all wrong. And we are mostly sure, they didn’t watch the sun rises or setting from the sand dunes or desert!
 

Sunset, Sun Dunes, Desert and a lot of Life’s Questions

Maybe life should never have answers. Maybe deserts contain hidden wells, yet again maybe none.
 
Does it matter really? When we can survive life without water?

different lovely shades of brown
 
 

COUNTRY 15: BAHRAIN: Shortest Plane Ride, Middle East’s First Indoor Amusement Water Park and World’s First Sustainable Skyscraper with Wind Turbines

 


وش ليش بالبحر و اهواله او رزق الله على السيف


Translation: Why endure the sea and its dangers while God’s blessings are on the shore.


Bahraini Proverb
 

The design inspiration behind the twin towers of the Bahrain World Trade Center makes it the first building of its type in the world. A modern interpretation of traditional Arabian towers, where the shapenot the structure harnesses the onshore winds of the Arabian Gulf, the towers’ architecture provides a source of energy for the bundling, renewable and cost effective.

Bahrain World Trade Center’s unique architecture, wind energy powered- high rise building! Effective way to teach kids about alternative energy in an oil rich country
The visit to Bahrain is long overdue for our family. After spending ten years living in the Middle East, it is just appropriate to see and visit the neighbor country and city and see their environment and day-to-day lives amidst the “similarities.” 

It is our family’s strong belief that no two countries’ cultures are exactly the same and visiting countries, no matter, how close they are geographically proves to us then and again our belief about the every country’s uniqueness.

Our family appreciates Bahrain’s friendly and polite culture. Everyone seems to have high respect towards one another. The places we’ve visited in the country are well-established with high quality services like City Centre Manama, Bahrain World Trade Center and Manama Souq. All these places seemed to be the happy to-be places in the country. All, even our walk along the King Faisal Highway in the middle of the afternoon, something we rarely do on the streets of Doha.
 

Lots of water fun indoors at @ Wahoo!!! The Middle East’s first temperature-controlled, indoor-outdoor waterpark👍👍

Fancy Indoor Skydiving anyone? There at the building behind!
Bahrain is the first country in the Arabian side of the Persian Gulf to discover oil way back in 1932. It feels that the country has developed its culture fully with the equal laws for all residents in the country, the tax (yes, that coming from an almost tax-free country is a surprise for us!) and the room for state-of-the-art technology innovations like indoor water park inside the City Centre Mall and The Bahrain World Trade Centre, a skyscraper with wind turbines in which a percentage of energy of the structure is powered by wind energy harnessed by the turbines.
 

It is also a huge adjustment to use decimals in currency. 1 Bahraini Dinar is equivalent almost to 10.1 Qatari Riyal. The mind conditioning to spend less because it’s expensive is a little hard to get used to. Doing math later on, the prices are almost the same. The mind just played a trick on the currency conversions when multiplied by 10!
 

Life is all about innovation, which is why we endure the sea and its dangers (referring to that Bahraini proverb) yet we should never fail to enjoy God’s blessings on the shores! Enjoying Bahrain for almost two full days, we saw how the locals and residents have capitalized on the country’s gifts being a desert and an island. We have felt the country’s sense of pride from within.

 
Do we recommend a weekend in Bahrain? Yes, we do. Not only it’s a great family getaway from Doha (or any other country in the GCC) but also to appreciate that there is another world out there in a desert island like Bahrain!

And hey, if not for the country, it’s really way too cool experiencing the shortest plane ride ever. 15 minutes! Barely after the pilot has spoken to the passengers about taking off, he’s there at it again, briefing the passengers about the landing and the destination country conditions! The huge disadvantage though, we waited the same time at the airport as we would on any normal flight to another country.

But hey again, there is nothing we love more than kicking off the weekend, right after office hours staying at the airport lounge with the family members complete! Because our favorite thing to do is go together where we’ve never been before!

Manama Souq