Capella Singapore’s Insider’s Guide To Singapore

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Singapore, often synonymous with its tall skyscrapers and giant shopping centres, also has a rich tapestry of culture and history that is sometimes overlooked.  However, to fully appreciate present day Singapore, it is essential that we look back to the past and appreciate the firm foundations on which our future has been laid.  It was an honour for me to help put together and attend a curated tour of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, called the Insider’s Guide to Singapore, especially designed for Capella Singapore’s guests.

The tour began with a visit to Singapore’s oldest temple, Thian Hock Keng temple. While at the temple, I learned how Taoists and Buddhists worship together, side-by-side.  Thian Hock Keng temple, built in 1841, is also significant because, prior to land reclamation, it sat right at the shoreline allowing Chinese sailors to pray to the gods the moment they came ashore.  As sea sojourns in the past were often perilous and fatal, sailors risked their lives to come to Singapore in search of a better life and were so overwhelmed with thanksgiving when they arrived that they donated money and goods to the temple, allowing it to continue operations until present day.

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The two gods of death, 黑白無常 (Heibai Wuchang) work together to bring people to the afterlife. Legend has it that they are easily distracted by cigarettes and alcohol which is why believers leave cigarettes by their altar!

After the temple visit, I had a personalised tour of Little India where I walked through the busy streets taking in the sights, sounds and scents.  The tour shares much about the importance of gold in Indian culture and includes a visit to several old family-run goldsmiths.  Gold, which signifies purity, prosperity and fortune, is still a form of dowry and savings among the Indian people.  But gold wasn’t the only thing that caught my eye in Little India!  I also had the opportunity to choose and wear our very own traditional Indian flower garland.

Lunch was the next stop.  I could choose between a Muslim Malay lunch and a Singaporean Chinese lunch.  The Muslim Malay food option allowed me to dine in an authentic Minang-style house.   Minangkabau, an ethnic group indigenous to Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia, has people scattered throughout the Indonesian and Malay peninsular cities and towns, including Singapore.  The Chinese option gave me the chance to eat my favourite, Bak-kuh-teh, a rich herbal soup brewed with pork bones.  This soup is popular with Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia.  I decided to go with the Muslim Malay lunch and dug into a plate filled with rich flavourful curries.

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(Photo courtesy: Singapore Tourism Board)

After my belly was full, my walking tour through Kampong Glam and Arab Street began.   One of the most interesting experiences was being able to create my own perfume at Muslim perfumery Jamal Kazura AromaticsMinyak Attar is a natural oil based perfume derived from organic sources.  The owner, Jamal Kazura, gave me the opportunity blend scents, creating a one-of-a-kind perfume that is unique to me.   Jamal Kazura Aromatics traces its origins back to the early 1920s.

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(Photo courtesy: Singapore Tourism Board)

After a culturally rich day, it was time to head back to Capella Singapore.  It was truly a unique experience being able to walk through history with my very own personal guide and one I would recommend to others.  

This tailor made Insider’s Guide to Singapore can be enjoyed by booking the Capella Experience package or directly through your Capella Singapore Personal Assistant.

Easter Bonfires in Dusseldorf

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Easter is just around the corner and with it the great traditions I love.  When I was younger, Easter was one of the most exciting holidays to me.  I couldn’t wait for my dad saying “the Easter bunny was here, let’s see if he left some chocolate eggs!”  I would run out into the garden to gather as many eggs as I possibly could.  And while I no longer look for chocolate eggs, I still look forward to Easter celebrations!

rsz_easterToday, my favorite Easter activity are the bonfires.  Maybe you have already heard about the Easter bonfires  in Germany, a tradition where huge piles of wood are burned in the countryside?  There are different stories about this tradition but I’ll tell you the story I like most.  Usually, in Dusseldorf we celebrate the Easter bonfire the Saturday before Easter Sunday.  Large bonfires are erected and music is can be heard throughout the countryside.  I’ve heard that this tradition stems from the 16th century and is meant to dispel the winter.  In the past, the resulting ash was then used as fertilizer for the crops.  It feels very cozy and peaceful to watch the fire glomming with people you love, your family or friends.  Grabbing a cool drink, sitting next to the fire laughing, talking and listening to the music – this is the perfect way to usher in Easter.

It is hard to describe the amazing atmosphere while you are sitting next to an Easter bonfire, so I think you should come to Dusseldorf for Easter one day to experience it yourself.  Just ask the Breidenbacher Hof Personal Assistants to show you the best bonfire places during Easter to make sure that you will never forget these Easter holidays for the rest of your life!

Experience The NRW Art Exhibit In Dusseldorf

Museum Kunst Palast

Last weekend I decided to visit the NRW Art Exhibit in the Museum Kunstpalast Dusseldorf which had been highly recommended to me by Barbara, our Personal Assistant at the Breidenbacher Hof.  The exhibit has been held every year for over 100 years now and is the biggest of its kind in Germany.  Opened on February 15th and taking place only until March 9th 2014, I told myself: „You’d rather be quick!“ and I was very impressed by the amount of art displayed.

Museum Kunst Palast / NRW Art Exhibit

This year, 140 regional artists have been chosen by the jury to show their artwork to other artists and visitors.  This exhibit provides a unique insight into the art scene of Dusseldorf.  It is comprised of  impressive sculptures, striking photographs, beautiful paintings and other kinds of graphic works.  What I liked most about this exhibit?  No exhibition piece is like the other because each artist has a different experience, comprised of different styles and perspectives across different generations.  I felt so excited because I never knew what to expect next, so everything was a surprise!

As a special experience you also have the chance to be guided through the exhibit by the artists themselves every day which gives you a closer insight into their artwork.  Additionally, various performances are offered every Thursday and Sunday.  So definitely make sure you stop by the NRW Art Exhibit during your stay at the Breidenbacher Hof, a Capella Hotel.  Our wonderful Personal Assistants will be excited to give you any information you desire and further amazing activities here in Dusseldorf.  I’m sure you will never forget these experiences!

 

 

Photo: “Nachtaufnahme Museum Kunstpalast” Stefan Arendt, Medienzentrum Rheinland

 

Kunst Highlights in Düsseldorf

Museum Kunst Palast

Letztes Wochenende habe ich mich dazu entschlossen, mir die Ausstellung NRW 2014 im Museum Kunstpalast anzuschauen.  Unsere Persönliche Assistentin Barbara im Breidenbacher Hof hatte mir die Ausstellung empfohlen und mich darauf aufmerksam gemacht.  Seit über 100 Jahren findet diese nun schon statt und ist die Größte ihrer Art in Deutschland.  Da die Ausstellung nur vom 15. Februar bis 9. März geöffnet ist, sagte ich mir selbst: “Jetzt aber schnell!”  Ich war von der Vielfalt an Kunst sehr beeindruckt.

Museum Kunst Palast

Dieses Jahr wurden 140 regionale Künstler von der Jury ausgewählt, die ihre Werke anderen Künstlern und Besuchern präsentieren durften.  Ein wirklich einmaliger Einblick in die Düsseldorfer Kunstszene.  Zu sehen gab es beeindruckende Skulpturen, atemberaubende Fotografien, wunderschöne Gemälde und unzählige grafische Arbeiten.  Was mir am besten an der Ausstellung gefallen hat?  Kein Werk ähnelt dem anderen, weil jeder Künstler einen anderen Blickwinkel und Stil vertritt.  Es hat die Besichtigung in ein Abenteuer verwandelt, weil man nicht einschätzen konnte, was einen als nächstes erwartet!

Als besonderes Bonbon kann man sich von den Künstlern selbst durch die Ausstellung führen lassen, um einen noch intensiveren Einblick in ihre Arbeiten zu erhalten.  Zudem werden donnerstags und sonntags Vorführungen geboten. Wenn ihr in den nächsten Tagen bei uns im Breidenbacher Hof, a Capella Hotel sein solltet, dürft ihr euch diese Ausstellung auf keinen Fall entgehen lassen.  Unsere lieben Persönlichen Assistenten unterstützen euch gerne und empfehlen euch weitere spannende Aktivitäten in Düsseldorf.  Ich bin mir sicher, das ihr diese Erlebnisse nicht vergessen werdet!

 

 

Nachtaufnahme Museum Kunstpalast, Foto: Stefan Arendt, Medienzentrum Rheinland  

Chef Rurik Salazar’s Tamales Nejos

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February 2nd marked a very popular holiday in Mexico, Candlemas day, or Día de la Candelaria.  At Capella Ixtapa we honored Mexican traditions by serving tamales.  But these weren’t just any tamales!  These were Executive Chef Rurik Salazar’s special Tamales Nejos!

They were absolutely delicious and, while I had never made tamales before, I simply had to learn how.  Chef Rurik agreed to teach me, ensuring me the process was simpler than I thought.  Indeed he was right and now I am sharing the recipe with you:

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Tamales Nejos Recipe

Masa or Tamal dough

  • 8 Tbsp of Corn Flour
  • 1 Tbsp of Vegetable Shortening
  • 1 pinch of Salt
  • N/A Water
  • Ashes of a tortilla

Mix the corn flour with the vegetable shortening, add water slowly and whisk it up until gets spongy, seasoning with the salt and the tortilla ashes.

Duck Tamales Nejos

  • 1 square of a plantain leaf (15 cm x15 cm)
  • 1 Tbsp of shredded duck breast
  • 1 date

Heat up the plantain leaf until it gets soft in a pan on a low flame.  In the middle of the leaf put the tamal dough and stuff it with the shredded duck and the date.  Wrap it like a candy, and steam for 18 minutes.  Garnish with some green mole or any kind of salsa.

 

Buen provecho!

El Chef Rurik Salazar Nos Comparte Su Receta Para Tamales Nejos

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Febrero 2 marca una de las fiestas mexicanas más populares, el Día de la Candelaria. En Capella Ixtapa hicimos honor a esta tradicional fiesta mexicana sirviendo tamales. Pero estos no eran tamales ordinarios! Eran Tamales Nejos, especialidad de nuestro Chef Ejecutivo Rurik Salazar!

Estaban deliciosos, y mientras que nunca he cocinado tamales antes, tenía que aprender como. El Chef Rurik accedió a enseñarme, asegurándome primero, que el proceso era más simple de lo que creía. Y de hecho tuvo razón, por lo cual aquí les comparto la receta a ustedes:

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Receta para preparar Tamales Nejos

Masa para tamales o nixtamal

  • 8 cucharadas soperas de harina de maíz
  • 1 cucharada de manteca vegetal o
  • 1 pizca de sal
  • Agua
  • Cenizas de tortillas

Mezclar el harina con la manteca, añadir agua lentamente y batir hasta que quede una masa esponjosa, sazonar con la sal y las cenizas de tortilla.

Tamales Nejos rellenos de pato

  • 1 cuadrado de hoja de plátano (15 cm x15 cm)
  • 1 cucharada de pechuga de pato deshebrada
  • 1 dátil

Calentar en un sartén a flama baja la hoja de plátano hasta que suavize. Al centro de la hoja poner la masa de tamal y rellenarla con el pato deshebrado y el dátil. Envolverla como si fuera un dulce, y cocinarla al vapor durante 18 minutos. Se puede agregar mole verde o cualquier tipo de salsa como guarnición.

 

Buen provecho!