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!!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Temples trip on Java

We had only been back from Bali for 10 days when a 3 days WE appeared in the calendar: it was Hari Raya, the end of Ramadan so we were on our way to give the Indonesian government another 25$!

This time, we are going to Yogyakarta on the island of Java. It is not really easy to get there so we have a connection flight in Jakarta. The objectives of this visit are the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. The first one ranks as Anghor Wat in terms of size so we have to have a look at it!

So Friday morning we are in Changi at 6am (WE are worse than going to work!), 1st flight is on time, the transfer in Jakarta is highly entertaining, basically we have to go through immigration, collect our bag in a conveyor belt drop it on another conveyor belt, try to go through the door indicated, go back, explain that the door is closed, they don't believe us so we drag them, the door IS closed so finally we exit the terminal, go upstairs and start all over again!

A boring 1h30 at Jakarta airport and another short flight and we land in Yogyakarta. The hotel sent someone to pick us up and the guy wears an uniform, speaks proper English and has R's name spelt properly on a board! And the biggest miracle of all, his car has an engine (no pedals if you remember previous Indonesian post) and the road is clear enough to drive at 90km/h!!!!!!!!!!!!

20mn later we get to our hotel, it's lovely, nice pool, nice terrace, tea and spring rolls as a welcome drink. After a quick deep in the pool (it's really hot!) we are off to the city centre. We start at the Sultan palace which is closed because of the end of Ramadan, visit post-poned until Sunday. Then a local takes us through the little street of the Kraton (area where live the people working for the sultan) to visit a puppet maker. Indonesian are fan of these shadow puppet show and today is the biggest one of the year so they are preparing actively. The show starts at 9pm and will finish around 2am! And the sultan is coming!

I find the puppet so pretty (very detailed cuts made in buffalo skin and then very colourfully painted) that I have to buy one obviously! R is not impressed by my negotiation skills...

After this shopping, we move on to the water palace. It's a big house with many swimming pool, a sauna etc there is also a little tower and the story says that the sultan used to go up and throw a little stone at his favourite lady of the day to let her know that she could come upstairs to join him.

After that another local gets hold of us and drag us along to the underground mosque.

This is quite impressive! It has a funky stairs symbolising the 5 prayers a day, it's orientated towards the west! Yes, we are on the other side of Mecqua comparing to Europe!

Obviously after this really nice tour, our local guide takes us to his batik shop, but this time I manage to resist!

After that we go around town a bit and make our way back to our hotel. I then decide to give another chance to the Javanese massage (previous experience at the Bromo hadn't been pleasant...); conclusion, I shouldn't have... I do not know what they do but it is always weird and painful!

Second day, we are living the hotel at 5am, objective: Borobudur. We are there at 5.45am it's still close but there are another 30 western tourists waiting with us. The guidelines are that it gets very hot during the day and also very busy with local tourists so we better go early.

The driver will pick us up at 9.30 so we have plenty of time to go around.

I'm not going to give massive description, photos are better. Just one thing, below all the stuppas, there is a Buddha, and I try to take a picture of all the different positions of Buddha which is hard when he has broken parts!

By 8.00 we are more or less done with the temple which gives us A LOT of time to explore all the museums around. There are plenty, not really sure why and they are not that great... Luckily our driver is early at the meeting point so at 9am we leave Borobudur and move on to see a couple of other temples, second was very nice and much less crowded than Borobudur!

We are back at the hotel at 10.30am where we enjoy a giant breakfast, followed by a swim. The early afternoon rain returns, absolute buckets of water! So we decide on a nap! (I know it's a hard WE... But remember we were up at 5!)

Later in the afternoon we go back to Yogyakarta city centre and just walk around, we discover plenty of shops selling beautiful baskets of flowers,

we take a tuk-tuk, we have a look at the bank (colonial building) and a church. Oh by the way we wondered for a while why our taxi driver didn't know about the famous monument wikitravel kept on talking about but we understood when we saw it, a little clock, shorter than a lamp post at un unsignificant cross road, amazing.........

Anyway when 6.30pm arrives, we are thirsty and despite all the walking we still haven't found a bar! But I came organised this time I have a good restaurant address so after much conversation with a hotel concierge and a taxi driver, we finally find the area of town where they have put all the bars and restaurant!

We have a fantastic dinner in a tiny bungalow and then we join plenty of other Frenchies at the next bar!

Sunday morning. We have given up on the idea of getting up at such an indecent time, never mind, it will be hot and there will be hordes of tourists!

And there was...

And not the most organised ones...

The very narrow stairs going up to the temples were a nightmare!

Anyway, the temples are beautiful! We can't access all of them because they are very fragile after all the earthquakes but even from outside, it's very impressive (the inside is really tiny anyway).

In the same area, there are hindu temples, buddhist temples, religion problems don't or didn't seem to exist overthere!

There is still a lot of work to do in terms of putting back the stones together! At the moment, with many of the temples, they have made some very ordered piles. It's quite funny.

As usual, we go around 3 or 4 museums after the temples visit and looking at the pictures, the job done is already very impressive, seeing how it used to be.

One interesting thing about both Borobudur and Prambanan is that they were both rediscovered during the british rulling of Java, which was by the way really short. Prambanan was found by accident ; when they actually looked for Borobudur (a legend was saying there was a lost temple in the jungle)

After Prambanan, we catch a taxi back to town where we can now have a look at the sultan palace (it's sunday, so it has re-opened), ok, we shouldn't have bothered. The only thing R managed to take photos of were chickens in cages... (I didn't bother showing you that...)

After that, back to the hotel to grab the bags and then the airport. We had left it a bit late to make it to the airport so thanks very much to our driver for his efficiency in Yogyakarta traffic!

Not really a smooth way back to Singapore, the planes were late, but it's Indonesia, transport is not their strongest asset...