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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

SINGAPORE GIRL...what a great way to fly!

P1040104The famous Singapore Merlion

It has been a MONTH since we returned from SINGAPORE! (It feels like term has just begun, we’re just getting into the swing of things, I’m just catching my breath, and getting the hang of it all…..and then my sons tell me that there are only 3 weeks left of term 3 !!! Egads.)


Our time in SINGAPORE was amazing! In all respects.


In truth, I don’t know quite where to begin, so I think this post will be a RANDOM TUMBLE of thoughts with no real order or sequence.


Numero Uno Highlight had to be meeting up with family and relatives and friends from all around the globe. What a wonderful thing to belong to a large, extended family! What a buzz to see everyone again! And linked with this, was the unbelievable hospitality of all our hosts. If you’ve never experienced true ASIAN HOSPITALITY before, I suggest you get to know some Asian people – it’s full on, ‘no holds barred’ generosity, lavish kindness, and everything laid on for you! Seriously amazing! We were looked after 24/7, chauffeured, escorted to places, fed only the best food, waited on, entertained, and totally and utterly spoilt! Seeing a country this way does give one a totally biased and skewed view of it …. In the most positive way of course!



Public Transport is SO cheap, so efficient, and so accessible! And housing is SO expensive!!! It all stands to reason naturally, with the country being so small in landmass and yet having to house a population of about 5million people. We were impressed with how clean, modern, efficient, safe, and well set out, all the Mass Rapid Transit stations were. Nothing at all like the dirty, rundown, dingy train stations around these parts!


And we loved the super fast escalators that can travel several storeys in length/height. It’s very cool cos these escalators are specially designed to SPEED UP as more people climb on board. At peak hours, you really have to watch your footing as you ZOOM on and off these escalators…it made me feel like I was being spat out at the top of the escalator at high speed sometimes! And just to give you a comparison of transport costs, our taxi to the airport here in Oz cost us about $45. In Singapore, a similar distance cost us about $12 (less in Australian dollars if you take into account the exchange rate). Hmmm.


Singaporeans have a love affair with FOOD. It’s true.


In fact, it is a well established (semi serious) joke, that EATING is Singapore’s National Sport.


And when you can get the MOST DELICIOUS food EVERYWHERE, 24-hrs of the day, and for such a reasonable price, it’s not hard to see why the Singaporeans live to eat! Singapore truly is the GOURMET CAPITAL of the world. Here you can get food from every country in the world, or any particular style you desire. And the local cuisine is so varied, that you could spend years here and never have to repeat a meal! The hygiene standards of the local hawker centres are now closely monitored by the Singapore Govt and this is quite possibly the only Asian country in the world where you can eat out everywhere and not expect to get Delhi Belly.


Hmmmm.....obviously an acquired taste!

Even better is the fact that you can feast like a king on a pauper’s budget! One night, my parents bought a plate (large servings only of course, here!) of fried Kway Teow noodles, and a plate of garlic vegetables for dinner. The total meal which amply fed both of them, cost Sg$ 3.50!


We ate and ate and ate. My boys tried everything at least once. E’s favourite breakfast soon became Fish Head Curry with Roti Prata!!! Not bad for a Weetbix boy :). I was so proud of them. They ate anything and everything, but they especially loved the traditional Chicken Rice. And we indulged in all the local tropical fruit. My favourites were mango, rambutan, and mangosteen. Yum! It was such a treat to have freshly squeezed fruit juices available everywhere.



Just as well we have a good appetite because our relatives and friends fed us from the time we woke up till the time we dropped into bed each night! And it was SOOOOOOOO gooooooood!!! The memory (& expanded girth) live on….




Shopping too, is incredible in Singapore. The variety is overwhelming!

I used to be a shopper once upon a time, but am no longer! However, I still can’t believe that we went to Singapore and I actually got NO shopping done!!!! Unbelievable! I wondered, if this was because I didn't think there would be anything that would fit me (given that the shops all stock the petite Asian sizes).... I was reassured (sort of!) when I came across this sign -


Actually, the lack of shopping was because we were so busy that I just didn’t get the chance to go shopping at all…..


However, having wonderful relatives ‘in the business’ meant that K & the boys managed to put in their order for certain technological /electronic items and got all their dreams fulfilled! You can certainly get some pretty good deals for technology and electronics in Singapore. I’m sure you could probably get a good deal on almost anything there (except for cars, houses, and land!). But it definitely helps to have local knowledge and help!


ION - One of the many large shopping centres on Orchard Road

Singaporeans work very hard. The children study hard and there is little time for play. Unfortunately.

However, achievement is lauded and rewarded. There isn’t the same “Tall Poppy Syndrome” that undermines society Down Under. That is a good thing.

And people seem to work and stay up till all hours, and then get up early. Nobody seemed to need as much sleep as we did! No wonder they get so much done!!!


It is a highly ordered society.


Advertisement on a train window

Ask any Singaporean and they will candidly admit that whilst they may grumble about the control the Govt has over its people, they nonetheless recognise that the Govt is also very smart and business savvy, and is doing a lot of good for the country. When I think of the lack of confidence in the Govt here in Australia, particularly with the recent federal elections and our present hung parliament, I think politicians here could borrow a page out of Singapore’s book.


Sign @ a train station. Durians are odiferous fruit whose 'fragrance' can be smelt hundreds of metres away!

We were really impressed with the initiatives the Singaporean Govt has taken to protect its people in the future.


Whilst tourists are encouraged to visit the latest Casino recently built on the island, locals are dissuaded by having a large fee slapped on them if they enter the casino. Very smart move!

The country is growing – literally! Though just a small island, the Govt is actively reclaiming land to meet population growth and the ensuing accommodation demands.


Singapore has no natural resources, so the Govt supplements its income via its Tourism, Technology, Business, and Knowledge resources.


Doctor Fish” Spa – these fish nibble the dead skin cells on your feet, leaving them exfoliated, soft, and…


Water is a problem for a country without natural springs, so the Govt has actively implemented a very clever desalination system and water treatment systems that will see reservoirs being supplied and maintained in the years ahead.


High rise living

The weather in Singapore at this time of the year is hot and extremely humid. We were unashamedly indulgent and zealous followers of the aircon! At times, we all resembled drippy soggy tissues. Make that BLOTCHY, RED, drippy, soggy tissues! However, heat aside, that didn’t stop us visiting the Singapore Zoo, the Night Safari, the Jurong Bird Park, the Science Centre, Sentosa Island & Universal Studios (not recommended if you’ve ever been to Disneyland), taking a trip on a bumboat, Little India, and Chinatown, and numerous other fascinating tourist and off the beaten track venues.




Monitor lizard just casually wandering around

We even made the trip across the Causeway to Malaysia, where a whole different world awaited us! It was a fascinating and enlightening trip.


Typical Malaysian Kampung

We were fortunate to have wonderful accommodation at the behest of our relatives, and it was great to get to meet up with some of their friends. People definitely make a place come alive - they are what makes a holiday so special!


Futuristic toilet.

Much of Singapore is extremely modern. However, the Singapore Govt is now trying to restore some of the heritage places that are so much a part of the country’s history. The evidence of Colonialism is everywhere, lending itself to some of the beautiful architecture from a gracious era. I love the diversity of new and old.


And I particularly loved the multiculturalism.

I was so chuffed when I discovered one day (whilst languishing in a public toilet, and eavesdropping on a conversation outside my cubicle) that I could understand a conversation between a member of the public and the cleaner– she spoke a mixture of Hokkien dialect, Malay, and some Mandarin. All in the same conversation. With some “Singlish” thrown in for good measure! It was so cool.


The Squat Toilet

And I loved, loved, LOVED our stay in a 6-star hotel.

Singapore’s hotels are some of the finest in the world.

If you enjoy good customer service, luxury, quality lodgings, and those extra special touches, then Singapore is the place to find it.


The boys were treated like royalty, and nothing was too much of a problem.

Our rooms were cleaned and serviced twice a day. Anything used or removed, was replaced. Towels, plush bathrobes, bath and bedside mats, slippers, pens, notepaper, postcards, sewing kits, shoe cleaners, combs, shaving packs, quality soaps and creams, chocolates, water, a vast array of toiletries and complimentary articles etc. And each night before bed, we would have a ‘turn down’ service – slippers would be placed on an fresh white mat beside each bed, the corners of the sheets turned down, the curtains drawn, the TV cabinet opened and playing, the lights turned on low, chocolates and water, and a bookmark on each pillow! That’s the life for me!!!


Well, I think that should do it in a nutshell. In short, the trip of a lifetime!

Singapore - it's truly a fabulous, fascinating, buzzy kinda place! Go visit - you won't regret it!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Big Bear has been working super hard all summer! It began in mid-June, when we took down our old (25 years?) above-ground pool that was in grave danger of spewing forth all its water. Since school ended, he toiled practically every day to prepare the base, install proper drainage, remove all the soil that had piled up around the pool walls, build a retaining wall, and assemble a brand new pool. I had foolishly estimated it would take a week or two, but it was far more than that!
Yesterday, we declared the new pool finished, if a little chilly, and Big Bear took the first inaugural plunge. There he is, splashing down!
And now that the pool is done and the weather is nice and hot, we're off to the Oregon coast.
I'll update you when we get back.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Starry Night

Coalmont again.
One nice thing about being far from the city is the night sky. You can actually see the stars!
I love taking these long exposure shots. Up here in the northern hemisphere, the Northern Star (Polaris) is in the centre of the circles. I would have taken a few shots and merged them on photoshop, but this one alone finished my battery. And, of course, I forgot to bring the charger.
On a clear night, the stars pretty much make up for the absence of cell coverage. And no Starbucks, of course!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Marriage Therapy

Home again!
Big Bear and I just got home from a few days in Coalmont.
We stayed in our old camper (I would call it one star heritage accommodation), which is living out its golden years in peace and quiet, traveling no more. (I pondered this and thought of your six star hotel and of Anita S, who only stays in places with lobbies. Where did I go wrong??)
The purpose of this trip was to bond together on the ATV. Really, it was for Big Bear to show me all the amazing places he has traveled on his motorcycle. And let me tell you, they were amazing!
We spent a couple of days driving around in the mountains on logging roads and old tracks. You'd be very proud of me.
(Here I am. Do you like my new super-cool helmet?)
Now that we have spent time together on the ATV, our marriage has been truly sealed in Heaven. (This is not meant to be offensive to my Mormon friends.) We have shared the ultimate in wedded adventures, and this has catapulted our relationship to the.... I'm at a loss as to where it is now. Somewhere very high up.
And high up is where we were in this photo!
On Wednesday, I got to experience the famous (at least in my house) Whipsaw trail. Picture a narrow dirt road that goes up and down steep hills. Pour lots of water on it, creating mud ponds and bogs. Then dump lots and lots of rocks of all sizes along the length of the trail. Make 'em sharp and pointy. Can you picture it? That's the Whipsaw. Four wheelers love it!
(We almost had to use the winch to get over this rocky patch, but BB, in all his ingenuity, made it!)
Our handy dandy GPS helped keep us pointed in the right direction as we tried to make our way across the mountains to a particular lake. We looked for trails and went by trial and error, and in the end, we found the right one.
I am convinced that if Big Bear had been born a couple hundred years ago, he would have been an explorer and searched for the famed Northwest Passage. (It's a Canadian thing...) He loves exploring, and was very excited when we were successful. He has the most amazing sense of direction.
Now that our big adventure is over, my arms are sore and tired. It's a lot of work being an explorer on an ATV!

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