Monday, December 13, 2010

Business in Bangkok

I'm off to Bangkok on training Monday and Tuesday, it seems like such a good occasion to also go for the WE. R still hasn't been to Bangkok, I was on my own last time. The objective of the WE is not to redo the temples I saw last time but to discover other, less famous, parts of the Thai capital.
This time we are flying singaporeairlines but let's be honest, it was a waste of money, they didn't even managed to give us 2 seats next to each other! Anyway, we made it and at 9pm we are checking in our hotel after a bit of a fight with the taxi driver to make him use his meter. 9.30pm we are out again to discover Bangkok night life; we find a bar with live music and a mix of locals and expats, it's good fun! We don't leave too late as we are getting up really early on Saturday to go to the river Kwai bridge!
At 6am we are at the station trying to explain which train we want to take and then the announcement is made: train full! Really disappointed we decide to go back to sleep before figuring out the plan for the day. Going to the station had been a piece of cake, going the other way seems to be more complex... It took the 5th taxi to accept us and he wasn't so enthousiastic so half way through he decided he had enough and dropped us nowhere near our hotel... Conclusion: do not force a Thai person in doing something they don't want to do in the 1st place, he will get you back one way or another! A few hours later we decide on visiting the west of Bangkok, west of the river. That's where the city was born before being moved to the other side of the river. After a first boat-bus we find ourselves in a very shiny long tail boat for 2h30 in the canals. We get through a few locks, we eat at a floating Market where all the cooking happens on long tail boats and we see plenty of monitor lezards.
House wise, there are some very pretty wooden house and some more chubby looking ones currently flooded.
(Thailand has recently seen very bad rain)
Once done with this part of town we walked for a while, we discover a magnificent temple (another....)
and we finally end-up in the backpacker area, apparently the most famous backpacker street in south east Asia! We find a massage house where the thai massage is only 180 batt (3-4 euros...) ok, it is not luxurious at all (10 people getting a massage in the same room) but the massage is good!
Going back home is a bit of a nightmare as the taxi driver all want to rip us off! I suppose that comes hand in hand with being in a touristy street!
On this second evening, we investigate another side of the nightlife, the very famous Bangkok roof top bars! Very nice cocktails!
Sunday morning, we change hotel and drop our stuff at the hotel I'll be staying in for the training. (very nice!) from there we walk to Lumini park, Bangkok's central park. It's a very nice area, with 2 lakes, more monitor lezards and a few people doing exercise.
Then we look for a long time for a tiny, commercial, not even pretty, touristy statue. By now you may have sensed the level of disapointement when we finally found it...
Pointless so we take another bus/boat on the canal to get to another temple (I admit I have forgotten the name), it was very unusual, a lot of iron, corridors everywhere, actually there were no rooms it was purely corridors and everyone of them was leading to a Buddha statue!
Once we had climbed and prayed and taken photos, we move on to the amulets Market. Every Thai person carries amulets around. I'm not sure how many they need but there are plenty of shops selling only that! My practical mind can not help wondering how these people survive...
We then decided that we had enough of going around Bangkok and that it was time to go back to the hotel swimming pool!
R had to leave to go back to rainy Sg (he didn't look too pleased...) and I had work to do!

Ps: special thanks to G for his guide book, maps, phrase book etc

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Monsoon season in Sg

A picture is better than a thousand words...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Getting ready for Christmas (in 30 C...)

(writen early november...)

It all started before Halloween. Decorations were going up, songs were appearing on the radio. It went through a quiet time the week of Hallowing, but now it is official, Christmas is just around the corner.
That has now become the norm in November around the world. The problem is that here it's still sunny, it's still 30C and people are still going around wearing flipflop (despite most European clothes shop trying to sell coats, boots and hats????)
So the purpose of this post is just to explain that for us, European people, it is very hard to get the Christmas spirit in what feels like summer but the Singapore government and all the shops of Orchard road are making a really big effort to convince us that it is Christmas and we should indeed be spending a fortune in presents!
And apparently Christmas has to be in winter so 30 degrees or not, there are snowmen, ice, frozen decoration etc
Here is a taste of it:fake Xmas tree being put together

Ice sculture imitation:

Merry Christmas preparation everyone!

Altitude: Highest bar in Sg

A while ago, we paid 20$ to get to the top of Marina bay sands. On Friday evening, we went to a higher point, we only paid 15$ and we got a drink for this price!
R had been turned down at this place before for wearing flip flop, so this time no flip flop, and after just a short queue we were 280m up at the top of Number 1 Raffles place.
Ok their queuing system is rubbish and the bar is not the best in town but the view is amasing!
You actually can not get any higher in Singapore, there is limitation due to the proximity of Changi airport.

Going around the platform, we admired Marina bay sands, the floating football pitch, the opera (durian looking roof), Sentosa and Jurong islands and all the boats waiting in Singapore harbour.

The other sky scrappers growing like mushrooms are also really close!
The place is definitely worth a visit! we even spotted our condo!

Meeting friends in Ko Lanta

French people have heard of this island, for the others, it's the one used to film the French version of Survivor and it is somewhere between Phuket and Krabi, not too far from ko phi phi (see one of the first post of this blog)
We are meeting 2 friends A and M who have been touring Thailand during this wonderful flooding time...
A trip around SE Asia wouldn't be the same without Tiger airways messing it up, so first they changed the time of the flight, making sure we were wasting more than 1/2 day of our 3 days week end and then the plane turned up late... Anyway after a difficult communication exercise at the airport, we finally manage to get into the minivan to Ko Lanta. About 60km including 2 small ferries (=3h) and then we finally made it to the lovely hotel!
By a certain miracle we even find M&A in a nearby bar and we spend the evening drinking cocktails, catching up and admiring the abilities of Thai people to play with fire (literally)

Saturday morning, we are up early,full of motivation for the activities ahead! Number 1 eating a huge breakfast! Activity 2 gets cancelled when we find out that we should have booked the diving the day before and anyway because of the rain the visibility is not great and the sites are pretty far... Keeping spirits high, we decide to have a look at kayaking. Once again according to all promotional booklets we are too late but it's Thailand so after a few phone calls we are on our way for a trip in the caves and in the mangrove.
The weather is not up to the usual Thai standard today (40C, blue sky and burning sun), it is foggy but not cold (for the people who associate the 2)! After a drive and a short wait, we take a longtail boat to get out of the mangrove towards the open sea. Very soon we start distinguishing the shape of the other islands of the Ko Lanta marine park. By now, we have also realised that the French survivor can not have been filmed on the big island of Ko Lanta but on one of the small one of the park. Anyway, it is time to get the kayak of the big boat and in the water, girls together, boys together, guide on his own but always with his camera!
The cliffs are very impressive, and we see different structures looking like elephant or snake. Talking about snakes, the guide thinks it is a brilliant idea to tell us about anacondas. I still haven't looked it up but I'm pretty sure they are only in south American jungle if only they are real snakes.... Anyway, true or not this is what I'm repeating to myself until i'm back in the big boat!

We get off in one cave and my 3 adventure partners decide to climb because that's what the locals do to steal the eggs of some birds!
Back on the longtail boat, we head to Bu Bu island (i love the name) where we get sun-burned (yes, even with the fog...), we have lunch, we make an attempt at snorkelling which comfort us in the fact that we are not going diving (can't see a thing!), we make friends with an hermit crab and then it's time to go back to the mangrove to feed the monkeys and see them fighting over water melon.
The rest of the afternoon is spent doing some very tiring activities: walk on the beach, drink at the bar, finding a good restaurant for dinner, going for a swim and getting a massage!
We even witness a wedding on the beach!
Anyway when dinner time comes, it's start raining but just lightly so we start our walk on the beach towards the restaurant. Very soon it is pouring down, we hide in a hotel for 5 minutes. Once it has calmed down we continue our journey only to be stopped a few hundreds of meters later by torrential rain, this time we are spot on in front of the bar we had a beer at the afternoon, good timing!!!
The electricity seems to have gone off on the island so there are candles everywhere. Lucky us, we are planning on BBQ tonight.
Once the rain has stopped (and we have finished our drink) we move on to the restaurant.
We spend a wonderful evening sitting on the floor (M's favourite thing in Asia...) of a little hut, drinking for a good 2h until our fish BBQ is finally ready but it was worth it! Red snapper and barracuda, it was delicious.
What we don't know is the delicious moments which are ahead of us...
The walk back:
Tide is quite high but there is still some space on the sand to walk on dry land. We do have a few fights with all the crabs around who obviously can't make up their mind about which directions they are taking!
And then arrive the moment when we have to cross the river, this tiny thing which was at ankle level on the way to the restaurant, so worse case, knee level now?
M starts very courageously and when he is in water fully dressed up to the neck than we start worrying... He is finally able to cross without attempting to swim but situation wouldn't be fun if R wasn't jumping around because he has stepped on a crab and A wasn't laughing (people who have by now figured out the identity of A know that we were now in deep trouble). As she was laughing so much, she couldn't stand up which is a bit of a trouble when you are trying to cross a river at high tide... We thought we were going to wake up the entire island looking at the noise we were making.
Handbag on the head, careful not to step on any animals, the 4 of us finally make it to the other side soaking wet!
Perfect end of a perfect evening.
Sunday morning is spent going around the island on a motorbike. We have a look around the old town where there is a Market selling huge amount of curry paste and where the sun is burning! It's also quite interesting to see all the evacuation signs in case of tsunami. Progress has been made since 2004.
Then it's time for a break and a good swim, playing like kids in the waves.
Just after lunch we have to abandon M & A as we have 4h drive to Phuket airport and they have to proceed with the rest of their Thai holidays!
Lovely WE, it's always great to have people visiting! Even if it's not really in Sg, it's near by...
A bon entendeur salut ...
(not sure how to say that very well in English, something around the lines "hope you got the message" ;-)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday afternoon walk in Little India: Deepavali preparation

In 2 weeks (post is 1 week late), there is the biggest Hindu celebration of the year: Deepavali. Thanks to that we get a bank holiday! (that means you'll get to read a post about a long WE in Thailand!)
As it is a very big day for the Hindus, Little India is all decorated! There is also a very colourful market.

But the best thing about being 2 weeks before Deepavali is that it's another key Hindu event: Thimithi.
After a long procession between one of the big temple of Little India and the Hindu temple a street away from our flat, Hindus wearing yellow/orange bottoms and topless queue for hours for the pleasure of walking bare feet on red hot ashes!
Here is a film of the big screen (sorry not the best quality!)

The funniest thing out of the all experience was actually to see the number of policemen around. Usually the police in Singapore is very discreet (that surprised us when we arrived), but tonight, the expendable truck were out, the cars and some very friendly motorbike policemen as well!

Anyway, Happy Deepavali everyone!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

MacRitchie reservoir

It's easy to forget it when you walk around the business district, but Singapore is 1 degree north of the equator and it is a tropical island. A visit to MacRitchie reservoir reminded us of that. It is a part of jungle in the middle of Singapore.

We went for the 11km walk around the reservoir. We were hoping to see some interesting animals but to be honest it was fairly restricted! Here are a few pictures anyway.

I suppose if we had slown down a little we would have had a better chance but we were very hungry towards the end and anyway we were feeling a bit guilty walking, everyone seemed to be here for their Sunday afternoon run!

As Singapore stays Singapore, right in the middle of our walk we found ourselves on a golf course!

On our quest for food, we didn't do the tree top walk and apparently we missed out on the turtles on the golf course so we'll probably have to go back... But there are also 2 other reserves to visit!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Korean memories

Special post for the people who follow this blog and were part of the Korean adventure...

A nice little restaurant in Chinatown: the Red Pig, it has everything you need bugogi, dakalbi, soju, bake soju and even Mak geol li!
The prices are somehow a bit higher than in korea...

Unfortunately we weren't sitting on the floor but each table was equipped with its own bbq, that's ours warming up. Once the food arrived I was too busy eating for taking a photo... (sorry!)
Do notice the full glass of Hite! :-)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Advanced Open water PADI in Tioman

I wasn't going to write a post about this WE because the beautiful things we see are under water and most of the time, we don't have a camera down there. But, on arrival in Tioman on Saturday morning we found ourselves nose to nose with a monitor lezard and the size of it is forcing me into writing this article, it is just enormous! It took a while to take a picture because he is very shy.

I don't think I will ever look at the gekkos in our flat the same way knowing how big their cousin could be...
(the gekkos are these really tiny White ish lezard which are everywhere in Singapore)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

F1 in Singapore

I have always been a F1 fan, I even got tickets to the Monaco GP as a birthday present from my aunt when I was younger! So I wasn't going to let the only night GP of the season gone by without buying some tickets!

After much discussion with R, I only managed to convince him to go on Sunday, the day of the race. I had promised him great music but when we realised Mariah Carey was the main show, I lost credibility...
Anyway, we had walkabout tickets which mean no seat but a large part of the circuit opened to us to have a look at different zones.
So we spent Friday and Saturday evening watching qualifications on TV while hearing the enormous noise of the engines by the windows! And when came Sunday, I put my beautiful Ferrari top on (sister's present), we took ear plugs and we walked to the circuit entrance.
We did a round of exploration to discover the best viewing spots, the bar, the teeshirt shop and the pretty lady in short skirt advertising cars!

The pilots did a lap on fancy old car in presentation to the public and very soon it was warm up time (ok we did manage a burger in between)

For the next 2h we went around the circuit, tried to take photos (but the cars are way too fast for a normal person camera so I had lot of either empty or blurry photos...), I then decided to film!

The noise was incredible, we saw lots of safety car, we saw the beginning of the Lotus incident when it starting catching fire and finally we got to see Lewis Hamilton on a muppet going back to the stands.

Conclusion: next year, we are getting 3 days ticket and a seat!!!