Friday, May 21, 2010

already 25


just to say that i'm celebrating my 25th post, a quarter of a century!!!
Next post will be about the little things which make Singapore a different place


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The little things of Singapore

I have wanted to write this article for a long time: the little things which make Singapore a special place.
I was going to create categories but to be honest, all depend on your point of view. So here it is, in no particular order

- restaurant are sorted out by their level of cleanigless. A is very clean, B is clean and I'm not sure what is the lowest grade you can get.
But expats are advised not to go for lower than B as our poor little stomach are not prepared for it!
To be honest, I have never even seen a C!

- Napkins do not exist in cheap restaurant despite most meal being full of sauce and eating with his fingers being quite common. On one way, it is a good thing, because it gives some people a job. In every food court you can find someone selling 3 or 5 (depending how posh is the place) packets of napkins for 1$. You just have to remember to bring the spare packets back the next time!

- McDonald delivery service. We knew the drive through McDo, we knew the McDo where you should dress up to go in (Korea), and now there is mcdo delivered to your door 24/7!!!! Just to make sure you do not spend any of the 500 calories you are about to eat!

- Drinks can be served in different containers over here. Of course you have the usual bottle or glass but you also have the plastic bag! The liquid is put directly in a plastic bag, and you drink it using a straw. I'm not sure what is the point but that's the way it is. Another more useful way is the paper/plastic glass holder. Because your drink is either freezing (full of ice) or really hot (coffee) the glass is put in a sort of plastic bag holder which allows you to keep your fingers at a more natural temperature!

- Now one of my favorite, in food court, the take-away is more expensive than the eat-in. Our conclusion is that it costs more to pay for disposable plastic boxes than to have someone to wash the dishes. It says a lot about the price of labour in this country!

This is just a taste of it, I'll come back to the subject in future posts. (especially if you like it!)

Sunday at the races

It sounds posh doesn't it? This is the Singapore airlines race, the biggest race in Singapore with a prize of 3 millions S$, nice!!!
There are 9 races prior to the big one, to put everyone in the mood.

I was ready to dress up but luckily R stopped me just before I got the hat out of the box! This is not really Ascot, or at least not the zone we were in... Pretty much everyone was in short and flipflop... Mmh not that well adjusted to local culture M!

Anyway, we are inside in an air-cond area behind a very very large window. By race 5, we have understood how the bets work, where are the machines, how to pay on time but we do have disagreement on who to bet on!
I strongly push for pretty jersey, some other are keen on stupid horse's name or nationality and the worst ones look at what the professionals say... Pfff :-)
Soon the first wins come (very impressive 18$) and the drinks are flowing!

Despite the heavy rain the horses keep on going. It is a nice way of spending Sunday!
We may not have gone richer (let's be honest, what were the chances?) but we had really good fun and let's not even mention the bus on the way back nor the ads up in one of the temple of gambling...

Wakeboarding experience

Saturday afternoon, the sky looks cloudy but crossed finger, it is not going to rain. We are going to Pungol with some friends for some water skiing, wake boarding and wake skating. The shop is completely empty, all boats are in the harbour, apparently it is jellyfish season, we seem to be the only one who want to go out on the water. Good start
Walking on the jetty to get to the boat, we see a few of them, they are huge! White, medium body but very long tentacles (if that is the appropriate word), just under 1m long I would say.

Our driver convinces us that there are not a lot of them, hmmm….

On the way to the area we use for water skiing, we admire all yards, refineries, cranes, barges around Singapore. Always such a nice view!

On location, the water is very calm, about 4 or 5 boats around, that should be good

Here are a few photos of our efforts, a lot of firsts on this day: wakeboard for me, skating for R, sitting on the skate and bare-foot attempts for the others.

The experts:

The apprentice:

Just for the fun, sitting on the board:

A really good day out and now that I’m typing these lines, I have to admit that I have the weirdest muscle aching ever, all on the right side, nothing on the left, I am not used to be on 1 board my body slightly twisted, new respect for my snowboarder friends :-)

Monday, May 3, 2010

A relaxing WE in Bintan

It was later than expected when we got home on Friday evening so the 8 am alarm clock was painful on Saturday but anyway we were going to Bintan, an Indonesian island off the coast of Singapore so it was worth the effort! A taxi trip to Tana Merah ferry terminal (near the airport) and we were collecting our magnetic boarding pass (modern isn't it?) and going through immigration. 9.30am, we have everything including some new Zealand wine (the guesthouse we are staying at only has beer so they told us to bring whatever we wanted to drink) and we are waiting for the ferry. Once we get on board, we are entertained by a very smiley girl demonstrating how to put the life jacket on the same way she would be showing off the latest Chanel jacket! We also get a good view of the tankers with Singapore skyscrappers in the background.
It is a 2h trip to Tanjan Pinang. It is the main city of the island, not where tourists usually go. There is a much quicker ferry to the resorts at the north of the island but we don't like doing things like other people so we are going to the east cost via the town! We are the only westerners on the boat so going through immigration is quick for us, as long as we pay the $25 visa obviously!Anyway, we are quickly outside the ferry terminal trying to stay polite with the people who jump on us (they would not take no for an answer!) to give us a taxi ride. We finally escape and try to find a restaurant, nmh not easy... Finally we find someone from the tourist office who takes us to a nice seafood restaurant on the sea front. He even helps translatting the menu. Our Indonesian is getting better but not menu translation level yet:For everyone education:
Ayam chicken
Nasi rice
Goreng fried
Trimagashi thank you
Bir beer!!!!!
After lunch he gets a taxi for us which first drives us to the ferry office to collect the return tickets and then take us to our guesthouse, it's an hour drive from the city and it has started raining... The ground has a beautiful red color and it looks like it gets very affected by the violent rain fall; sometimes the road looks more like a 4*4 track as some sand has been displaced and completly cover the asphalt!Anyway we get to this place in the middle of nowhere, there are a few bungalows, a main house, a spa and the beach. The sun is shining again! We get a fresh coconut as a welcome drink and we start reading some funny slides around us. The main one targets our communication with the dog, Toby:Some other talk about the different types of reptiles and insects in the guesthouse. At this point in time, I'm more worried by the mangrove snakes than by the sand flies and mosquitos, hmmm I will learn my lessons...Anyway, we do cover up with spray before going to the beach to avoid sand flies bite.The beach is huge and there is only the 2 of us! Absolutely no-one else! The sea temperature is most probably above 35C, it feels like getting in the bath! We try to snorkel but in these temperatures, the visibility is very low! so I just practise my techique with mask and tuba and I'm still crap...So we play with the kite for a while which seems to interest a lot 2 falcons, they fly above us for a while. Once the wind has really dropped and the kite doesn't want to fly anymore because all the sand it is carrying, we switch to sand castle building:-) it was a hell of a busy WE...
Let's not forget to mention that there is always a lovely guy to bring to the beach fresh fruit and juice middle of the afternoon!
At 6pm, the sun goes down and the sand flies get replaced by mosquitoes!!! Wooohooo Despite spraying ourselves every 30 minutes on average (when the bottle says every 4 to 6h), they keep on coming!Nice diner of fish/chicken and coconut rice and some great new Zealand Pinot noir, we spend the night covering up of tiger balm, spray, cream etc it starts getting really itchy!!!!Sunday morning I'm up early and I read my book on the chair on the bungalow balcony. After a good breakfast of fresh coconut pancake it is time for another swim. My meeting with a few jelly fish shortens my swim, and I go back to the book. R investigates a reef not too far away but it's not the red sea... It is a bit damaged and the fish are not that colorful. After all these morning efforts (yes, efforts!) it is time for a spa treatement in beautiful piloti houses on the mangrove (still hasn't seen a snake!) it takes a good hour and an half and we smell of lemongrass from head to toes that should keep the mosquitoes away for a while!!! (I wish...) lunch is gado gado and nasi goreng, and we even know before it arrives what it is! We are getting good at Indonesian food!After lunch is nap time and then we take a little barque for a tour of the mangrove, it's like jungle on water but still no snake and I garanty that I'm looking!At 4pm, out taxi is here to take us back to the main town and the ferry terminal for our 2h journey back to Singapore.
This was a lovely relaxing WE but I do admit that the 100 bites (each) of sandflies and mosquitoes killed a bit of the pleasure.
For final information on sandflies, Wikipedia says that their bite is more itchy than the mosquitoes and it last longer and there are 5 beaches in the world known to be bad for sandflies and guess what? the east coast of bintan is one of them!