Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The little things of Singapore (2)

This is the second chapter of the little things of Singapore. As per the first time, in no particular order, this is what I have found funny, weird, annoying and clever in Singapore.

When ordering food in a restaurant (I'm not even talking hawker centre, I'm talking normal restaurant), don't think about getting starter FIRST, THEN main course. Dishes will come in a completly random order. In a group of 4 people, You may have 2 starters and 2 main courses in the first 10 minutes and then 2 other main courses 15 mm later and the final 2 starters will turn up just before desert!

There is no knife anywhere. It is pretty easy to find proper cutelery if you struggle with chopsticks as long as you are happy with fork and spoon because you won't get anything else! It's like people can't be trusted with knive! In the fancy restaurant R took me to in HK, we got a knife at the 3rd or 4th dish, I can't help to wonder if they had been observing us since the beginning and then decided we were ok so we could get a knife! Anyway all of that to say that eating a full chicken leg without a knife is a difficult business!

The opening of a shop or a restaurant is celebrated with a big ceremony and a LOT of flowers. The first time you actually think someone has died, it is more like cemetery type of flowers but it is so frequent that you get used to it!
Thanks to R for the picture contribution!

Final one for today. Singapore national day is on the 9th of August. Structures for the ceremony have been up for 3 months, we have already seen several repeats of the air force demonstration, there was a rehearsal of the parade 2 weeks ago, the entire island is covered with flags, they have created the most annoying song ever.

and they even had a go at the fireworks just to see if it was going to look pretty enough! Worst part of the story, we won't even be here on the 9th of August, we'll be diving in Malaysia!

Ok, I hope you enjoyed this one as well, see you for a 3rd episode of the little things of Singapore soon!

From the 71st floor

A quick post to tell you about the New Asia bar, on the 71st floor, at the top of the Swissotel.
It was R(2) last night in Singapore so it was time to test this classic of the Singapore night life!
Here are a few pictures of the views (it is missing one side, it will be for next time!) and of the cocktails of course!
Apologies, there are iphone photos...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Surprise WE in Oz

Thursday evening, Changi airport and R still doesn't know about the destination! I'm making strong progress surprise wise!

When checking in, I have to admit that we are heading to Darwin, Australia for 3 days. We get there at 2.30 in the morning and after going through the painful Australian immigration and custom, we are in bed by 3.30 at an airport hotel.
7.45am friday morning, our guide J is here to pick us up and we are going for 2 days adventure in the Kakadu national park. Just a few words to describe it and then, I'll let the pictures talk on their own: animal discovery (lizard, snake, birds, crocodiles),
arborigenes discovery (culture, painting),
amazing views from the scenic flight we take on Saturday morning, from the sunset cruise on the yellow waters and from the different look out points we get to.

Finally, we do manage a swim in an area free of crocodiles.

A few conclusions: 1. there are some very dangerous animals in Australia, there are warning signs everywhere for crocodiles, deadly jelly fish and stinger rays and the only place they advise to go swimming in the guide is the local swimming pool! 2. Australia is a huuuuuge country for very few people, looking from the plane it just goes on for ever

Saturday 6pm, we are back in Darwin. After a quick jump in the cold swimming pool of the hotel, we are out for drinks and dinner. Once again, the rule of no Asian food in Australia is applicable so it will be seafood and beef! After dinner, we experiment Darwin's night life. It's better than Perth but it's not Singapore! The club we end up in reminds me of the one in Kingston where I spent a few nights in my first year in London (a few people will know what I mean:-)
During the night, I have finally told R what was the plan for Sunday: sky-diving! We will be jumping from a plane at 12000 feet (4000m) to land on the beach a few km lower...
It seemed like a brilliant idea when I booked it, now, I'm starting to feel the stress...
So here it is, it's Sunday morning, at 11am we have checked out of the hotel and we go on a little exploration tour of Darwin.
After the Perth experience we don't expect too much and rightly! In about an hour it's done and we get a drink before we get picked up to go to the airport. We are given forms to fill stating "parachuting is dangerous", very helpful before jumping of a plane!!! We gear up and listen very carefully to the instructions! We practise a bit on ground and then from the plane door. And amazingly quickly the plane is taking of with us packed at the back of this little thing. Decision has been made that I'll go first (probably wise otherwise we are not sure I will go...)
When we get to 12000 feet, my instructor (who is in charge of everything as it is a tandem jump) opens the door, puts one foot out, second one, tells me to do the same and here we go for the scariest moment of my life I'm falling at 200km/h, direction: the ground. After the first few seconds (=when I have stopped screaming) I realise that I should better breathe as it is not that easy! Anyway, I'm already feeling better, I have also spotted R a but further away.
I can open my arms and enjoy the rest of the freefall. Very soon it's time to open the parachute and it becomes a scenic flight! We spot one crocodile, I learn how to turn around and it is time to land on a beach at the top of australia (it was time to land, all of this turning was getting to my stomach!)
Here we go, back on earth with the most amazing experience! I can't wait to receive the DVD and the pictures. ( sorry you'll have to wait for another post for that) and I still can't believed I have jumped. Ok, enough about me, R had a great time as well, he enjoyed his birthday present and is already asking when we'll jump again!
We spent the rest of the afternoon on a beach eating seafood and celebrating with the australian champagne the hotel gave us for R's birthday! All of this under the wonderful blue sky...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

WE in Hong Kong

After a serie of trips to Europe, it was time to re-start our tour of Asia. So last WE, we were on our way to hong kong. It is now part of China, but there is no need for a visa and it is only 3h30 flight from singapore and for once we were flying with a proper airlines (Cathay pacific, miles on BA) so we got food, tv screens, blanket and no need to pay to check in baggage!!!!
So at 22.30 on Friday evening, we are landing in HK but not on HK island. The territory is indeed made of the main island, plus some smaller other island and also a part on the continent. After 23 minutes in the airport express we are downtown where we get a taxi to our hotel. So, taxis in HK: there are cheaper than in Sg, there are millions of them and the drivers all think they are on a formula 1 track!
We do make it to our hotel, Jia, a fantastic boutique hotel with a very generous collection of weird armchairs.
We drop our bags and we are out again for a drink.
The streets are full of people but no bar to be seen! Finally we find something, not amazing but ok for a pint.
After a good night of sleep and a great breakfast we are ready to deal with a very hot touristy day (hk is north of sg and the weather is more comparable to Thailand: blue sky and burning sun)
So first we go for a tour of the business district. The number of highrise is impressive and the architects seem to have great fun in this city!

We have a look at the birds of the HK park and the museum of tea pots. It's quite interesting, tea used to be served in tiny cups (smaller than expresso) it looks like starbuck has really increased the mug size ! :-)
We then take the cablecar to victoria peak. HK is incredibly hilly which explains why they need to build highrises, because there is very little flat land! It's hard to escape the tourists at the top, but we do manage when we go for a 3 km walk around the peak giving us a 360 degrees view of all the islands.

We enjoy a real wanton meal in a Michelin recommended restaurant and head down to the bar area of HK. That's where we should have gone yesterday! After looking for a Market for a while which seems to have disapeared a while ago. We then take the longest mecanical dtair in the world (it's cheating to be honest because it's formed of plenty of small ones). We go through lovely streets with antics and a lot of bars and restaurants. On the way down, we visit a temple and we head back to the hotel for a glass of wine (or 2) and to get changed for dinner.
R is taking me out! We have dinner in a fantastic Chinese restaurant looking over the harbour. And as I was too busy looking at the view, I completly forgot to take pictures of every single plates!
Lung King Heen is the only chinese 3 michelin stars in the world so we were in for a treat! First taste of wagyu beef, some fantastic food and wine combinaisons, discovery of seafood unheard of and the first really hood Asian dessert! it was a real experience!
Sunday morning, we head to Aberdeen, yes there seem to be one everywhere I go! There are floating restaurants and boats of all shape and size randomnly parked in the middle of the skyscrappers! We take a short cruise in between these floating elements. Going back to town, we take a walk in Victoria park. It's like all HK has decided to have lunch here, any bench, any spot under the trees is covered by women sitting down on plastic sheets. I don't know where are the men (R recons they are betting somewhere). It's hard to walk anywhere. We discover a few interesting points: there is a jogging track with policemey at each crosspoint making sure you have the proper speed, shoes direction, very funny! HK inhabitants seem to have a particular think for mini speed boats as well, they were tuning engines,making sure it was turning properly in the curve (which are protected by plexi-glass)
After picking up our bag at the hotel, we take the ferry accross to Kowloon (new territories,mainland), the esplanade is very impressive with a fantastic view of HK island.

Then we hit Nathan road, the Orchard (Sg), Oxford (London), Republique (Lyon) street of HK. We get a chance of seeing a dragon show in a park next to all the shopping malls.

and after a final ice cream, it is time to head to the airport to get our supply of alcool before boarding the plane.
HK was very different from what I expected,all this green and mountains and it was really a fantastic WE ;-)