A Balinese Hindu Ceremony

My friend Sapna and I headed across the street from our Bali hotel to the beach with our handsome husbands. All we wanted was a romantic stroll along the sandy shore as the sun set, but we ended up getting so much more.

As our feet hit the sand the evening of March 28, we immediately noticed a sea of Balinese Hindus dressed in white. Some were carrying brightly colored parasols or banners, while others balanced what looked like offerings on their heads.

As the sun set, the Balinese Hindus strolled down to the water and walked along the beach toward the twinkling lights of town.

Once we lost sight of the ceremony's participants, we meandered to a nearby restaurant to continue date night and marvel at what we had just seen.

We would later learn that what we witnessed on the beach in Kuta is called Melasti - a purification ceremony that occurs in the lead up to Nyepi, the Hindu Day of Silence.

Sometimes the highlight of a vacation - or even a date night with your love - is the one thing you don't plan. In our case, that was definitely the Balinese Hindu ceremony.


Hello Bali

When a good friend of mine called a few months ago and asked if My Traveling Troop would be interested in joining her family for a vacation in Bali, Indonesia, I immediately said yes!

There were many factors that allowed me to quickly agree. First of all, I've been dreaming of visiting the island ever since reading about the romantic location in the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. My friend Sapna already chose the flight and hotel, so I didn't have to spend hours researching. And, Bali is only about a two and a half hour flight away from Singapore -- so close it would be a crime not to visit. Finally,  I was about to re-enter the work force and the trip seemed like a great way to spend quality time with my family and friends before the nine to five life took over.

Once we arrived in Bali, our families spent most of our days splashing around the Hard Rock Hotel pool and our evenings listening to a band serenade guests at the hotel bar. With rocking music, good food, excellent pool facilities, water slides, and a kids club, it would have been easy to never leave the Hard Rock Hotel in the Kuta enclave. But at some point during our vacation, the moms decided to escape the hotel and say hello to Bali.

For a mere US$40, Sapna and I hired a driver to take us around the island for about six hours for a mix of culture, dining, and shopping. Here are some of the highlights of our tour:

A market in Ubud.

Drums made of mahogany and animal skin.

Entrance of a temple in Ubud.

Balinese food at Grand Puncak Sari Restaurant. 

The view while we dined? An active volcano!

Rice terraces.

An offering in front of a market vendor. (I found offerings like this in front of most shops and market vendors in Bali.)

Have you ever traveled to Bali? Or is it on your wish list?


Having A Ball With Friends In Singapore

A few weeks ago, my husband and I attended the U.S. Navy Ball in Singapore. Here we are, all dolled up and ready to go!

We've attended Navy and Marine Corps balls in the little red dot before. But what really stood out this time around wasn't the fancy hotel the event was held at, nor was it the gourmet food, sparkly gowns, or the DJ's thumping music. This time, what made the night special for us was our friends.

You know, those gorgeous gals who are fun to get ready with.

The crazy kids who can make a long, potentially boring maxi taxi ride feel like a disco party.

And the handsome troopers who are willing to pose in a million, prom-like photos because it makes their beautiful wives happy.

When you move around a lot as a military family, you never know whether you will find people that both you and your husband click with. But in Singapore, we must have won the friendship lottery and we will always treasure the fun times we had with them.

Have you ever been to a ball? What was your favorite part?


Coconut Date

Hello friends! I know it's been a long while since I've last written to you. Will you forgive me? Perhaps you will if I take you out on a coconut date. We can sip on lovely numbers like this at MacRitchie Reservoir Park - a popular spot for Singaporeans and expats alike to exercise and enjoy the lush scenery. In fact, this is my husband and I's favorite place to run.

The hardest part about jogging at MacRitchie is not so much the tropical heat or the occasional steep inclines out on the trails, but trying to resist the nearby cafe that serves up curry puffs, fried chicken wings, and other naughty, but yummy dishes. But I'll let you in on a little secret: slurping and scraping my way through a fresh coconut at the cafe helps me stave off the fried goods.

Would you like to join me? If so, sit back, relax, and grab yourself a coconut -- or a coffee, if you prefer -- and let's catch up after months apart!

1. The biggest news I have to share with you is that after a few years as a stay at home mama, I went back to work! It was a tough decision, as I love spending time with my kiddos. But, I knew it was time to return to the workforce when I started searching Google for jobs in Singapore and drooling over work clothes when I went shopping. ha ha. I ended up taking a job as a communications specialist at an international school with about 4,000 students. At the Singapore American School, I get to flex my skills as a reporter when I write and edit for their publications and blog. But I also get to try new things like planning an advertising campaign. As a mom, it's also been a treat to get insight into what it takes to provide an excellent education to kids. Overall, I'm happy that I made the leap to go back to work. Who else has gone back to work or made a career change this year? Let me know. I'd love to hear how it went!

2. Right before going back to work, my family went to Bali, Indonesia! Vacationing in Bali has been on my bucket list ever since reading Eat, Pray, Love, and the island didn't disappoint. What a beautiful and fun trip that was! I owe you all a few posts on our Bali vacation, so stay tuned!

3. I also took the kids back to the states for a few weeks this summer. I have to admit, I love living overseas and didn't think I missed anything about living in the states other than family and friends. But once we landed, I was quickly reminded of all the little things that I forgot made living in the states so great. Post on our American vacation coming soon too!

Enough about me! What have you been up to?



Singapore Brunch Spot: Spruce

One my favorite things to do on the weekend with my family is go to brunch. Unfortunately, we've been in a restaurant funk lately, frequenting the same brunch spot over and over again. Who can blame us? It's a miracle when we find a restaurant that the whole family enjoys.

That said, I am tired of visiting the same place each weekend. So, it's time to spread our restaurant wings and see what family-friendly brunch spots are out there in Singapore. Each time My Traveling Troop finds one we enjoy, I'll share our experience with you here.

I decided my family's first foray into the brunch dining scene here in Singapore should take place at Spruce.

The restaurant, which serves American cuisine, has two locations. We opted for the restaurant in Phoenix Park (off Tanglin Road), because online reviews mentioned the food was good and that the restaurant had a playground for little kids -- a winning combo in my opinion.

Once we arrived at Spruce on a late Sunday afternoon, I noticed that the restaurant was packed and secretly gave myself props for making a reservation.

We were seated in the covered outdoor section of the restaurant, protected from the unrelenting sun. Surrounded by trees and perched on top of a hill, I felt like I was in a tree house. I think my five year old daughter shared my sentiment as she happily played with leaves the wind blew onto our table.

With the bustling and woodsy atmosphere getting my approval, I decided to turn my attention to the drinks and food.

My husband and I ordered the Signature Spruce Bloody Mary to start. We've tasted the tomato-based cocktail at different brunch spots all over the world and have yet to encounter a recipe we didn't like. Unfortunately, we both thought our drinks at Spruce didn't taste right. To me, the Bloody Mary had an earthy after taste, but not in a good way. Did the drink taste off because of a bartender mistake or an unsavory ingredient? We didn't ask, but definitely should have.

Famished, we focused on the food menu. I was torn between ordering a brunch classic such as the Crab Cake Benny -- which features ciabatta bread, crab cake, poached egg, bacon and hollandaise -- or the Signature Spruce Ahi Tuna Tartar with toasted ciabatta and avocado. The waiter suggested the latter, and I agreed to order it, especially since I thought the dish would be refreshing on such a hot day. Thankfully, the ahi tuna tartar dish was good. I would definitely order it again.

Meanwhile, my husband ordered the tuna burger and my daughter chose the cheese burger off the kids menu. Both of them said they enjoyed their food. Of course, I had to take a bite out of each dish to make sure my husband and daughter were right in their assessment and they were. Being a taste tester is a tough job, but some one has to do it! :)

By the time we finished our meal, my daughter was antsy, especially after catching a peak at the playground and children playing below. Since we were sitting outside and had a view of the playground, we decided to let her join the other kids while us adults sipped on our respective coffee drinks. (The iced mocha is delicious, by the way).

The playground isn't big or impressive in design, but it was a treat for my daughter to have somewhere to play and run around before we drove all the way back home.

So, what is the final verdict? Would we recommend your family visit Spruce? Absolutely! The atmosphere, food, service, and playground are definitely worth a visit. Just promise us you'll skip the Bloody Mary.


The National In Singapore

Hello friends! How is your week going? I've been humming tunes from the American indie rock band The National for the past few days. I just can't get their songs out of my head, especially since my husband and I watched the band perform on Saturday. The National's performance blew us away. And the outdoor venue at Singapore's Fort Canning Park which is a green oasis in the bustling city-state — was the perfect place to throw down a blanket, lounge around, and enjoy the show!

One of several opening acts.
This lovely white building loomed in the background above concert goers.

My husband and I attended the concert with a group of friends. Here I am with the ladies!

I have no idea what this contraption is, but it flew above the crowd during most of the concert and had a video camera attached. Was it there for surveillance and crowd control, or just to shoot concert footage? Who knows?!

My husband was able to get close to the stage and take some great photos of the National playing. Thanks, hun!

Here is a photo of my husband and me. The concert was a great way for us to have fun with friends, but it also doubled as date night. We had so much fun. I can't wait to attend another show in Singapore!

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