Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cinema in Singapore

Yesterday evening we went to the cinema for the first time in Singapore. Ok the film was brazilian, in portuguese with english subtitles. Luckily we escaped the usual triple subtitles (chinese, malay, english etc)

So what is different about singaporian cinemas?
First, food and drinks are forbidden in the room which probably stops the Americans coming (only joking)
The tickets are pretty cheap 7S$ each, more or less 3.5 euros. It has been a long time since I have paid that little to see a film.
The ticket office is on the ground floor of the shopping centre and the cinema is 7 levels above.
The building was quite nice, it's an art deco building converted into shopping centre (1 more as there wasn't enough already...) sorry I didn't think of taking a picture, it will be for next time.
The airconditionning is so powerful that it's hard not to turn into an ice cube
And my favourite, the (emergency) exit is blocked by a very thick curtain folded in a way that it forces you to bend over to have a chance to get out.

Anyway, to conclude, City of men is a good film and I think I will be going to the cinema more often here than I used to in London. May be a chance of discovering chinese movies...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'm up to date!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I just wanted to let you know that I'm now up to date with this blog! It took me a while to catch up but hopefully now I'll be on top of things!
Next one to come, Java, Indonesia, It's easter weekend, we are leaving tomorrow.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Pulau Ubin

Saturday afternoon, it is sunny and hot, we decide to head to Pulau Ubin. It is a small island north east of Singapore. A taxi to Changi village and a 15 minutes boat ride and we are there.

The ferry was pretty fun, it goes as soon as there are 12 people on board and the boat looks more like a fisherman boat than a ferry!

Bicycle shop owners jump on us as soon as we step one foot on land, but we resist strongly and head for the seafood restaurant first. Some delicious prawns and bamboo fish and we are ready to go cycling this time.
We find some decent bicycles and start going west on the island, there is a pretty reservoir with birds, then a resort (not looking very glamourous) and finally we reach the mountain bike area. The signs are a bit scarry, talking about very long steep downhill, big obstacles etc
Finally we settle on the blue square route (black diamond and double black diamond sounded way too dangerous to me!)
Now I admit the blue square was REALLY easy but we saw a bit more of the reservoir and were able to admire all the big buildings of Singapore...

On the way back, we pay a visit to the beach which has barbed wire all around and the sea is red. May be we can postpone the swim...
At the same minute we were wondering about the barbed wire, both of our phones sent us a "welcome to Malaysia" textmessage, so we concluded that this beach was actually protected against illegal immigrants from Malaysia.

On the last leg of our cycle tour, I ran over a snake!!!! It was confirmed dead and halfed (with no head) by R. as I couldn't go to close to check.

Pulau Ubin is a lovely part of Singapore, it's like being in a big park. It's very close to the big city but it also feels as you are miles away. There is no McDonalds; no Starbucks, just some locals running their little business.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Music festival in Singapore

Friday evening, after a few martinis at the Mandarin Oriental, we went to collect our tickets for the Rock and roots festival held at the Formula 1 area.

The ticket office was miles away from the place so we turned up fairly late...

Anyway, at 8pm, Buddy guy was on stage, it was good fun, he kept on coming down from the stage and mix up with the public.
There was plenty of space around so people were sitting and watching the show on big screens or standing close to the stage. Knowing that we were sitting were Formula 1 cars usually pass at great speed we had a look at the ground and indeed, it doesn't look like a normal road, kind of a mix between athletic ground and a road.

On the background, the Singapore flyer was going round round round...

Next up was the Buena Vista Social Club, I had missed them in London a couple of times so it was great to finally see them! The night was concluded by the Gipsy Kings.
A fun night in Singapore

A rainy weekend in Singapore

3rd weekend in Singapore and it keeps on raining. Ok I won't complain too much, but the island is really not designed for rain, there are very few activities...
Anyway, on saturday we manage to go for a little walk, we saw the St Andrews cathedral, a beautiful white building and then we made it accross the oldest iron bridge in town (facing the Fullerton hotel) to the Asian civilisation museum. It's really interesting, there are rooms for each civilisation around SE Asia, 1 for Malay, 1 for Muslim, 1 for Chinese etc A way of increasing my understanding of Singapore incredible mix!

Sunday, once bored of the flat, we talk a short walk in little india. It feels like beeing in another country. There are shops selling phone cards and watches everywhere, lots of vegetables and smells coming from everywhere. The indian temple is packed and I had to take a picture of this old guy reading the paper in front of the statue in the temple!
On the way back, I saw this incredibly colourful chinese house which used to be a candy shop.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Water skiing

2nd weekend in Singapore (still late on writing the posts...)
After a Saturday spent watching the rain (the rainy season is supposed to be off, but really it never ever stops raining), we decided to go water skiing and wake boarding.
We took a taxi all the way to Punggol, the Marina country club. The afternoon started badly as it was raining so much that the boat didn't want to go. At the 1st break, we were on our way to the waters between Singapore and Malaysia. The water is very warm, slightly green but it's not too bad. Some people were better than others (I won't mention names...) but after a few attempts, everyone was out of the water and standing!
Admire the view if you can, refineries, chemical plants, it's all great!!

Duck Tour

Same weekend, but Sunday. My colleagues convinced me to go to the Duck tour. An amphibian vehicle which takes you on land and water around Singapore.
It didn't really go very far, but we saw the main attractions, the merlion, the national monument (4 sticks symbolising the 4 races of Singapore), the supreme court, the new hotel with its 3 towers and the ship on top and the Singapore flyer (equivalent of the London eye), it's a different way of seeing the city.

Sentosa island

(I'm still running late on this post)

The weekend after the first week back at work. Saturday afternoon, we decided to go to Sentosa island. It's Singapore leisure island, a casino, Universal studio, lots of bars, restaurants and activities. But one thing to keep in mind, more or less everything is man made (including the beach).
So we took the Sentosa express, and extension of the MRT to cross the bridge to the island. We went for a swim on the beach admiring the lovely view on super tankers and the refineries of Jurong island.
Once bored, we went for a swim at the bar swimming pool!
Walking around the island, there are aquarium, fort, luge track, golf, observation tower, waves machines to practise surfing and luna park style rides.
There are even some houses and flat on the other side of the island.
It's a fun day close to home!

Kuala Lampur

After my long train trip and the visit of Bangkok, I thought I deserved to fly to KL instead of spending another 2 days in the train!
So Friday evening, I made the 2h flight down to Kuala Lampur. A taxi later and we were downtown KL, having checked in the hotel and looking for a bar. We must have been in the wrong area because it was difficult to find one, but obviously, we did manage!
After a nice breakfast and a swim, we head for the biggest mosque in KL which was ... closed (lunch time break) so we had a look around the colonial quarter, it is fairly small, just a couple of buildings and a cricket ground really, then we took a leisure walk under the burning sun (as you do around 1pm in the tropics…) to the old train station which is really pretty. On the way we admired the lighting posts...
We did return to the Mosque where I was offered a headscarf and a long robe! Then we wondered in Chinatown, admiring the art deco market and the colourful houses.

To cool down, we spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool where we could admire KL sky scrappers

The evening was spent at the Indian night market and finished getting bitten by mosquitoes looking at the Petronas towers.

2nd day: after a failed attempt to go up to the Petronas tower bridge, we decide to go to the famous bird park which is definitely worth a visit. I nearly got attacked by a monkey! To cut a long story short, he scared me by appearing from nowhere, me being scared scared him so he decided to show me his teeth which scared me even more, anyway, everyone got scared and survived! But I have found monkeys much less friendly since…


Arrival in Bangkok at 11.30 am. Just 40 minutes late. After 20h, it is not that bad! A taxi trip later and I’m in a very nice hotel in Silom. A shower and I’m out again trying to get to the touristy places. I’m being told by the concierge that taxi is not a good idea as the roads are extremely busy; his advise: a boat! The ‘boat station’ is just 300m away and it indeed has a direct connection to the temples. Destination Wat Pho
It is a huge temple with stunning decoration, especially famous for the enormous sleeping Buddha.
It takes a few hours going around. In the temple, there is also a school to learn Thai massage!

Once this first visit finish, I take a boat across the river to Wat Arun, the Indian temple. It is completely different from the previous temple, much smaller, totally different style, but the stairs are VERY impressive! Several people were stuck at the top, wondering how they were going to get down!
After an afternoon of temples, it was time for a break and a well deserved Thai massage!
On the evening, I decided to go exploring Chinatown, it is described in the guidebook as a Xmas tree lighten up and it is not far from true!

Second day, I had to move hotel as I had messed up my booking. I took the MRT and the skytrain to go downtown. It is a bit of a pain, the 2 systems are not well connected and they are not covered by the same ticket system but the roads are so busy that boat and metro seem to be the only way of actually getting somewhere!
Anyway, after a little bit of back and forward in the public transport, I’m ready for some more touristy things! Today is Grand Palace. Prices are back to European levels, the place is packed, yes that’s normal it is the most famous place in Bangkok!

The palace is now only used for formal receptions, the king does not live here anymore. It's the home of the Emerald Buddha, unfortunately, there was a ceremony on the day I visited the palace so I couldn’t see it.

On the evening, I went to the Arabic quarter where the language changes once more! People clothes change, shops change, food changes, it is like going to another country (but you won't get any pictures as I had forgotten to put the battery back in the camera...sorry...)

Final day in Bangkok.

My friend F gave me a book 'The backpacker' a couple of months ago and it was making reference to John Thompson so I took the opportunity of being in Bangkok to pay a visit to his house. It's beautiful, it's mainly made of reclaimed buildings, it's all teak and I even found a tour guide in french! (Not that I was looking but the queue was shorter than for the English one).

There is also an exhibition about chinese astrological signs, I discover I am a rooster and I pretty like the definition!

This was my last visit in Bangkok before heading to KL. See you there!