June 29, 2005
This and That Around Singapore
Did I mention how many times a day we shower? At least every morning and before bed -- and any other time you feel sticky. Or, go swimming. Talk about going through your clothes. I mean, do you ever wear them again? If not, then you have to wash them and wait two days for them to dry. The morning I washed my sheets, I did it very early in the morning so that they would be mostly dry before bed. The saving grace is Dani's housekeeper who comes once a week and IRONS! Totally cool since I rarely iron. But, without a dryer you have to iron.
It has been lovely having two apartments if, for no other reason, it gives Dani and Charles some time to theirselves. They have begged James to come up and sleep in the same apartment, but he has adamantly refused. I would like to blame it on my grandmotherly caring -- but it is because his room has an air conditioner and his friend's room just has a fan. Also, he knows that his parents won't be down until at least 8:30 in the morning which gives him some television time. His grandmother is in bed reading! He is a wily boy.
Last night we had one of the worst taxi drivers. We wondered if he were drunk (but decided probably not). He actually took a personal phone call and talked to a friend (I was hoping it was Chinese so that Charles could tell us what he was saying -- but, alas, it was not). He didn't know where we were going and we finally had him just leave us on Orchard Road and let us find our own destination. Most of the drivers have been great. We have an idea about how much each journey is going to cost, so it isn't easy to be fooled. But, a few have tried to take us out of our way. Not many considering the many taxis we take. Most drivers are quiet, but some have been chatty. I mentioned the retired school teacher. Many have religious icons on their dashboard and almost all of them have the radio playing quiet music. There are, I think, over 20,000 cabs in this small place with about six different companies. There is a sound that is made when the taxi goes over the speed limit. I only remember two hot rodders. The rest can be intimating when they wend their way in and out of traffic lanes. But, they seem mostly safe. I'm still not totally comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road.
There is an elderly man who lives next door who has been the subject of many conversations. We often meet him as we are going onto the elevator and he is coming off. For some obnoxious reason, he will hit the 20th floor button so the elevator is heading up when we want to go down. We know it is him because it happens every time we meet him. We are constantly annoyed when we see him and wondered if we should talk to him. We grumble and groan when we get on the elevator. Last time, we just turned around and charged over to the other one. However, he may have gotten the message -- because the last time I saw him, he greeted me and when I got onto the elevator -- voila! the 20th floor button was dark. Who knows what lurks in his little head? Why does he do that? Is it a quirk or the love of annoyance? He is the source of our endless discussions on the little mean neighbor.
Finally, living close to Canada one gets used to the eh? from Canadians at the end of each sentence. Well, in Singapore it is the yah, yah, yah that distinguishes the Singporean from the mere two-week visitor. Must be a limit of two weeks, because I found myself saying it the other day. To be authentic, you must say it very very quickly. I'm working on speed.
I have been taking lots of pictures and have spent way too much time trying to post some of them to this blog. Martin has been trying to help, but neither Dani nor I can get it done. It doesn't help that we are awake when he is asleep and visa versa. It also doesn't help that the phone we need to use to talk to Martin is not anywhere near the computer. So, we've given up. Anyone want a slide show when I get home?
Day 17 -- James and Eating!
Dani, James and I headed for some familiar places to do errands today. James got a haircut (description: short/boy) in Holland Center and we picked up a few items and headed for a bakery supply shop where Dani gets her yogurt starter. On the way, James began telling us where he would and would not go for lunch. Of course, his choices were not compatible with ours. So, when we were in the bakery shop, I said that I wanted him to look at the menu at the little French bistro that we passed a few minutes before. So, he did. It was pretty fancy, but he was sure that he would love it. We were delighted to get his mind off more mundane fare. We ate at Au Petit Salut and had a lovely meal. It was a three-course lunch for about $12.00 each. Dani and I began with a spinach salad and James had potato leek soup. Then, Dani and James had a beef steak and french fry dish and I had lamb. The sauces were really nice. My lamb came on a bed of soft mashed potatoes and then sauce topped with some green beens and asparagus. I finished with Creme Brulee, James with sorbet on fruit, and Dani with Pot de Creme. Since Dani's meat was a bit tough (she had left a bit), they brought us a second, complimentary, dessert -- creme puffs with chocolate sorbet inside and chocolate sauce topping them off. It was a very deligious meal!
After spending the rest of the afternoon reading and relaxing, Charles came home and we headed for Orchard Road and a restaurant called Marche'. It was a Singaporean Zuppas! Except there was a difference. You take a card around to the various places and it is swiped so you pay only for what you eat. I couldn't believe it! Dani and Charles each had soup and salad and I had a cheese and mushroom crepe. James dug into a huge plate of stew. I love watching this child eat. He relishes meals and likes different things. It is like Allie -- she has her mother's good taste! If it is expensive, Allie likes it. If it is hearty, James likes it. If it is sweet, Nicole likes it.
So, I had our first European meal experience since I've been here (other than the days we eat at home). You might think that we eat out alot. We do! We usually eat papaya and toast for breakfast at home. Often we are out running around during lunch. And, we've been out to dinner about half the time I've been here. Most of the eating out is pretty economical. Eating out is often much cheaper than buying food and cooking. And, it is so hot that you both do not feel like eating much, and you certainly don't feel like cooking. Eating out seems to be a pasttime of Singaporeans. It is as commong as taxis! When we leave, Charles will probably get all his meals at the Hawker Centers on campus.
We had a rainstorm this afternoon. In fact, the whole day was overcast and very breezy. It was, by far, the most pleasant day for walking around. Since I have been here, the days have been sticky and hot although it is not unusual for it also to be overcast. Some nights are breezy and it is wonderful to have the windows wide open and the air conditioning off. When the clouds go away, you worry -- because you know it will be unrelentedly hot. Interestingly, the weather reminds me of the Northwest. You can never tell how it will be from one moment to the next. The only difference is that the temperature stay around 90 degrees during the day with 80% humidity whereas the Northwest can be 60 degrees one day, 80 the next, and 45 two days later. It does cool down a bit on some nights (it can get down to about 77). This is the lowest rainfall month although the thunder and lightening storms go on throughout the year. People actually use umbrellas here -- for protection from both the rain and the sun. I'll probably freeze when I get back to Washington.
June 28, 2005
Day 16 -- Around Town
Dani and I are pondering what needs to be done before we leave and she moves back home. Today we returned to a few familiar places to shop. She was looking for clothes and we both wanted to go back to the French store, Hediard, to buy more tea. It has become a favorite. We dragged James with us. He is definitely a reluctant shopper unless the items are for him. He played games on his mother's Palm Pilot while we looked through stores. We went back to Orchard Road and had lunch in the basement of Takashimaya (the big department store). We sat at the counter of Romankan Yokohama and ate their special sandwiches -- pounded chicken fried in Panko on white toasted bread. It came with undressed cabbage with a side of lemon and three tiny french fries that actually weren't all that bad. After walking around the department store a bit, we hiked over to yet another mall to buy some apples for dinner and catch a taxi home.
Tonight we were invited to Rachel's apartment for dinner. She lives upstairs with her mother and a live-in housekeeper. Rachel teaches at the National University of Singapore and has been here for three years. She came from Cornell and her family is from the East Coast. She recently taught for two weeks in Rangoon, Burma, and was talking about the educational systems in that country. Her housekeeper made a nice dinner with rice, an eggplant dish, cucumber salad, a tofu and fish dish, potatoes, and spring rolls. It was all very tasty. Dani and I took up some apple crisp and ice cream for dessert. I think the housekeeper didn't know we were going to do that because she had planned to have fruit and some pastries. We enjoyed the fruit with the apple crisp.
I enjoyed going to Rachel's because all the apartment/condos here are exactly the same. It is fun to see what orientation they have (what you see from their lanai) and to see what people have done to their living space. Last night, when Dani was cooking, I remarked that I thought it was so practical (especially because of the heat) that their kitchen has a door which opens into the hallway (which, of course, is open to the elements). That takes the cooking odors out as well as the heat, and lets a breeze through. In fact, Dani used her oven today for the apple crips, but it didn't heat up the apartment. It is a clever piece of design.
June 27, 2005
Day 15 -- Back to the Fullerton Hotel
We had a lazy morning and then begged James to go with us to town. I wanted to go back to the riverside so I could take some pictures. My camera was full when I was there last. I've been reading this great Singapore tourist book, and I wanted to check out a place on the river that had been recently remodeled into shops and restaurants. When we got there, the place was like a ghost town. It obviously comes alive only in the cool of the night like so many places in Singapore. So, we wandered across the river, through the part of town that houses the parliament, treasury, and the official buildings until we ended up by the Asian Cultures Museum. I got my pictures of Raffles and some of the statues (one of a totem pole for Keith) and James dragged us across the bridge to have lunch at the Fullerton Hotel. They have this sumptious buffet and, more important, they have air conditioning!!! That much effort simply wore us all out on this hot day, so we went home and read until dinner. We have run out of Arrested Developments so we were reduced to regular television and even watched the British version of Wife Swap and Sgt. Bilko with Asian subtitles, of course.
June 26, 2005
Day 14 -- A Lazy Sunday
Not much happening today -- James has a birthday party and is going to some kind of place where they pretend to shoot each other with lasers (not real ones, I trust). This is the second such party in one week so Dani was going to keep him home until Charles and I began waxing eloquently about playing war when we were little and about making rubber band guns to shoot the enemy and how we were now pacifists! So, Dani relented. Since Charles is much younger than I and hails from a completely different state of the union, I can only conclude that making rubber band guns is some kind of cultural icon.
Dani, Charles and I did wander over to Holland Shopping Center where Dani showed Charles some lamps and some furniture that we had seen a few days earlier. They are beginning to think about going home and what they would like to take with them. We bought some pizza pieces (rectangular and thin crust) from a wonderful European Deli, De Paolo, and ate outside. We had pizza with smoked salmon, another with mushrooms, and another with arugula and prosciutto. We caught a taxi home so that Charles could take James to his war games. Dani and I read all afternoon. I had bought a book from Dani's favorite store ChoLon where we had taken Charles to see a table. It is about a woman writer who went to France and experienced some cultural dissonance. I had seen the book three times without buying it. But, it kept calling to me, so I finally bought it. Dani started devouring it because I am reading The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh which Dani had recommended last year before it had been published in the U.S. I even looked for it in Canada, but no one could find it. I ordered it from Amazon UK and Donel read it and loved it. I'm finally getting to it. It is about Burma and India and the English rule. It is interesting reading it in Singapore where I am surrounded by similarities.
Singapore is curiously interesting. It is really tiny (only 263 square miles) but so efficient and cosmopolitan. It is both modern and traditional at the same time. The Chinese make up about 77% of the citizens, the Malays about 14%, and the East Indians about 7% with others, such as Eurasians, making up the rest. There is a large foreign population (about one to every four Singaporians) from all over the world and a specialized English dialect spoken in Singapore and Malaysia called Singlish which takes a bit of experience to get used to. There is probably every religion represented on this tiny island.
We had a woman taxi driver the other day, and I asked her how many women drove taxis. She said about 250 out of thousands of drivers. Singapore has the second highest density population in the world (second only to Hong Kong) and they have solved that problem with high-density public housing. Eighty-six percent of the people live in apartment blocks and 90% of these own their own places. They have won world-wide awards with their high rise housing. Dani reminds me that everything is vertical which is why one finds grocery stores at the bottom of fancy malls and movie theatres at the top. We would also find grocery stores and movie theatres attached to malls, only they would be over at the side. Since few people own autos, one can shop for all needs at one time before catching taxis home.
I guess I have been most fascinated by the wealth of the city. I have been to Beverly Hills and New York, but seeing mall after mall with such upscale fashions and expensive name brands really surprised me. This is a really wealthy city. I'm sure that there is nothing that is not available in this small space. The soaring skyscrapers have been designed by world reknown architects. And, yet, there are still the remnants of old Singapore and the sense that cultural mores and customs still are alive and well among the wide variety of people who inhabit this amazing tiny Asian island. Amazing is right!
June 25, 2005
Day 13 -- A Tropical Storm
Yesterday I awakened to nice breezes and telephone calls from Martin and Jeni since it was my anniversary. Dani, Charles and James took me to Halia for brunch. Halia is a lovely restaurant in the Botannical Gardens. We sat outside and it got darker and darker until the heavens opened up and it poured for fifteen minutes or so. I was wondering if it was orchestrated by Donel and Lloyd. Isn't that just what they would have gleefully done? Dani and James left for home and Charles and I meandered through the beautiful orchid garden. It was a lovely, and poignant, morning.
Dani spent the afternoon looking for a two-day tour for us for somewhere out of Singapore. While I am here, it would be nice to see another Southeast Asian country. I read on the patio because the weather was balmy and breezy -- more refreshing than the usual hot! About 5:00 we picked ourselves up and took a taxi to Orchard Road where James and Charles saw "Batman" and Dani and I saw "The Upside of Anger." Perhaps we should have seen Batman! Dani said, "I thought it was a comedy." We tried to go to Nooch (an eatery) in honor of Martin -- but, it was completely gone. Sorry, Martin! So, we went for sushi again. A lovely day. This morning looks to be another hot day but everyday is an adventure!
June 24, 2005
Day 11 and 12 -- And Still More Shopping!!!
Yesterday I was determined to go over to the Ritz Carleton to see the Chihuly glass at the hotel. I had read about it. They also have a tea. So, Dani, James and I set out. We made a detour at the beautiful NgeeAn City mall on Orchard Road to buy James a new Lego product to celebrate his great school year. We meandered through the mall. The top (4th)floor is all art products and the bottom (basement)of the store has, you guessed it, a grocery store!!!I can't believe that these gorgeous "Beverly Hills European" malls have grocery stores in them. It is the same cognitive dissonance I experienced when I moved from California to Washington and found that most of the plant nurseries were attached to grocery stores that appeared only in the spring and summer.
We caught a taxi and went to the Ritz Carleton where we had an English tea in the Chihuly Lounge. We were serenaded by a quintet playing lounge-type music (what a waste of a good string group). The Chihuly was unexciting and undramatic. But, it was definitely Chihuly!Dani, Charles and I had sushi for dinner and left James home playing with his Legos. I am getting very attached to Asian food!
Today we sent James off with a friend to go to the water slides. Dani and I headed for Chinatown and we had a fantastic day of shopping!!! We shopped 'til we dropped. We began with Kaya toast and white coffee at YaKun. We found several wonderful and unique stores as well as the pedestrian chinatown places which were fun, too. We found some wonderful bargains. Among them some Chinese folk paintings for about $8.00 American. Dani had a conversation with a gentleman selling his father's photographs. The gentleman turned out to be the director of a local Chinese university that was closed down in the 50s. He was fascinating. Here was this educated man reduced to selling photos. We had Dim Sum in the YunChi Tea House and finally dragged ourselves to a taxi. It was hard because we had so much fun. I'll go back anytime.
Two more things about Singapore are interesting to me. The first is that there is no tipping anywhere and, like Canada, you can get a return on your GST tax. The second is that the technology is amazing. Public transportation is wonderful and traveling is so easy with an electronic card you buy for either the bus or MRT that can be used by putting it on a reader that scans the amount when you get on and again when you get off. Machines in the lobbies give you immediate refunds if you do not use the full amount. The ATM machines have sophisticated graphics which show, as well as tell, what to do. And, of course, the cell phones are attached to every ear and everyone is so adept at sending messages -- their fingers literally fly over the keys. I certainly feel that I am in the 21st century in Singapore.
June 22, 2005
Days 9 & 10 -- Mostly Shopping!
The past few days have been a bit cooler. Yesterday Dani and I went to Tanglin Mall and looked at the antique stores down the street. We found a new little French store that was a wonderful experience. Almost all of the product packaging is bright red and so the store is red and black. I bought some great tea. Tanglin mall is not as upscale or as large as Raffles City, but it has lots of Asian stores for expats. We had lunch at an expensive Thai place where our appetizers and diet cokes cost more than most of our other meals in Singapore. But, the experience was nice. After buying a few things (a new watchband, a little cookbook, and two miniatures), we went to the basement grocery store (what else?) and headed for home. Dani made a great lambchop meal with a fancy rice with yogurt sauce. We then watched two episodes of Arrested Development and went to bed.
Today I saw James off on the school bus after a special "end of the year" breakfast. Dani and Charles had an appointment with his teacher to help them figure out school for 4th grade. She had good things to say about his year -- James is very bright in math and science, off the chart in thinking skills, grade level in reading and writing, and needs space to move in his classroom. Good behavior, just moves alot and sings to himself. I think D & C would like to transplant his Canadian School to Irvine.
Dani, Charles and I set off for Holland Center. We had gone there the first day we were here. We just had to go back to Cafe Rossi for their scones and tea. They are delicious! Charles then went to the bank, and Dani and I went into Holland Center and had fun buying stuff. They have a huge store called Lim's that was having a 20% off sale. We both came out with heavy shopping bags. We saw some other stuff, but didn't have enough energy to buy it. So, I'll have to go back sometime. To give you an idea of why we spent money, I found a beautiful 90" round white Damask tablecloth for about $32.00, and I just had to buy my little neighbor girls cotton pjs for about $2.00. You can see why we couldn't get out of there easily.
We went to Dani's favorite store ChoLon -- but it is so lovely that we couldn't afford anything. It actually has lots of quite reasonable furniture such as painted chests and interesting chairs interspersed with interesting books and art objects. We had lunch at a favorite Expat place called Original Sin. We ate yummy Risotto cakes and green salad and Diet Cokes which were about a quarter of the price than they were yesterday! And, off to home. Dani has another appointment today at the University Press and Charles is going to pick up James from a birthday party later this afternoon. So, I am going back to my novel, Isabel's Daughter.
I've now been in about 25 taxis. At least 5 times more than I have ever been in my whole life!
June 20, 2005
Dani, Charles and James' Apartment
I love this apartment. Some Singapore quirks are so great, and some are so odd. First of all, it makes such sense to live in a highrise. I would never expect to think this way. In fact, I wasn't sure that I would enjoy it at all. But, think of all the space and land it saves for so many people to be housed in a tall building. Their apartment is on the 9th floor and has a lanai porch where the glass wall totally opens across the sunken living room. The view is spectacular -- both the tops of lush green trees, the intense blue of the expansive swimming pool and twinkly lights from high rises and skyscrapers.
There are windows everywhere on the two sides of the apartment that face outside. One long wall is shared with another apartment, but there is little noise. I have heard no noise from apartments above or below. The fourth wall faces the hallway -- but it is not enclosed. The building is open on the sides somewhat like a balcony so Dani has plants both in the hallway off of the elevators and on the lanai. It takes away from the closed feeling of a tall hotel or an enclosed building. When you leave the apartment, you feel like you are outside even on the 9th floor.
The apartment has a few built-ins. A large, curved area in the living room for televisions, storage and a place for decorative items, storage between the living room and dining room, and closet and drawer storage in each bedroom. Dani is right -- the built-ins look like they are from IKEA -- light wood -- but very pleasant.
The floor of the living room and hallways is glossy ceramic tile (so easy to clean and so classy looking). All of the electric plugs as well as the hot water are on switches that turn the electricity on or off as you need it -- rather than being continually live. There is a double front door -- one solid and one like an iron gate -- so you can leave open the solid one and get a breeze through. The master bedroom has its own bath, and two other bedrooms share a bath. Off the kitchen which has small, but regular appliances, there is a small back door as well as a little room with a washing machine and drying racks, a small storage room, and a third bathroom. A funny quirk is that there is a teeny little step into some of the rooms that is about 1" tall -- and it is difficult to understand why. I have seen that around town also -- you go along and, all of a sudden, there is a tiny step up into a room or a store.
Dani and Charles apartment is fairly stark compared to their friend's apartment on the 14th floor because their friends have lived here for five years. But, I actually like it better because it has such a nice feeling -- bright, airy, and light in feeling.
Day 8 -- Monday
I woke up today after a night of brilliant lightening and horrendous thunder. The show is quite entertaining, but it does break into sleep patterns. It explains the rain forests and the lush greenery here in Singapore. Most nights have some rain or thunder -- but last night was quite dramatic.
We sent Jay, Cindy and Mariel back to Hong Kong and took a taxi to the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Charles took us to the faculty club for lunch. Dani and I had the special which was tempura. It came with some miso soup and rice. But also an egg custard dish with fish and pork called Chawanmushi. It is one of Dani's favorite dishes. Maybe an acquired taste, but certainly not disagreeable. Then, Charles and I sat in an outside coffee shop next to the library called the Grinning Gecko while Dani had a meeting with the University Press about some work.
Dani and I left Charles at NUS, picked up James from his school, and whisked him by taxi to the IT Mall downtown so I could find a reader for my camera which would allow me to download pictures. Your father would have loved this mall (and I'm sure that Martin did also). Floors and floors of everything electronic! James found a computer game and we headed for Raffles City mentioned in previous entries.
Picture Bellevue Square -- upscale with recognizable Western stores such as Garden Botannica and a flagship department store named Robinsons. I continually come face-to-face with the odd juxtapositions of east and west. The top floor food court is entirely Asian -- they have such dishes as Fishhead Steamboat and Nasi Padong --every stall has many offerings of a particular Asian culture. We ate scallion pancakes and Goyza for supper, then headed for the basement which houses a huge, fancy supermarket. After we shopped, we had to push our grocery cart through the first floor of this beautiful mall to reach the taxi stand outside. It is really a cultural curiosity.
June 19, 2005
Day 7 -- Evening
James and I left the apartment sometime around 1:00 and took a taxi to the same area on the river where we had dinner last night. Everyone went to Thai food for lunch and then to the Asian Civilization Museum where we spent the afternoon. James' class had spent one whole week at the museum, so he was excited to show people all around. There is a new exhibit of art from the Vatican which was interesting. I'd like to go back sometime and spend more time. We just missed a choral concert from a local church - sigh! I wish I had known about it earlier. I'll have to start combing the paper better for events around town.
We all hopped the underground rapid transit system (MRT)back to Orchard Road where we had coffee at Starbucks (the kids had juice at Orange Julius) and then through Borders up to the Sushi place that we enjoyed the other night. We all stuffed ourselves with sushi - including four-year-old Mariel who ate everything!!! She is still wearing her fluffy yellow (now somewhat bedraggled) dress that she wore all day yesterday. What a lovely child.
Now we're back home and have time to have a last evening with Jay and Cindy since they leave for Hong Kong tomorrow morning. Jay will continue his work and Cindy and Mariel leave for their New Jersey home the following day. How nice to see them again. Cindy was so attentive during Donel's illness and made him a lovely pettipoint butterfly. Jay said that, after Donel's illness, he decided to come to Singapore with Cindy instead of going immediately on to China -- that in ten years he might somewhat remember his time in China, but he will treasure the time spent with friends. I am continually amazed at how the blog has brought friends across the country together in a heart-warming way.
June 18, 2005
Day 7 - Morning
Today is Father's Day and I am missing your dad. I have been feeling only half here anyway, because I would have loved sharing this experience with him. But, today is especially poignant. I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling this way. It is fascinating how the weirdest things stick out -- the little ritual we always had on Mother or Father's Day. We'd give the other person a present, and the receiver would say, "But I'm not your mother (father)." And, the giver would reply, "But, without you....!" I'm prepared for all these little occasions and feelings, but nevertheless, it is very sad for me.
I don't know if you remember that James and I are the only ones sleeping in their apartment. Everyone else is up on the 14th floor. Last night at 2:00 a.m. James lost all his dinner. He immediately began to call his mom, but he really didn't seem sick. So, I said, "No, don't call yet." And, he didn't even complain. I suggested that he try laying down with me for a few minutes. And, of course, he was back asleep in under two. This morning, he and I ate some toast and I had tea. It is almost ten and I haven't yet heard from our upstairs people -- but, it has been a lovely morning for James and me. I suppose they will surface before long. James has reveled in his grandmother letting him watch tv while she read the really good Singapore newspaper.
I love a good newspaper. My favorites are the New York Times and the Globe and Mail (Canada). This one (The Straits Times) is really interesting. They sure do love American movie stars!!! More later -- Dani and Charles have just emerged. Evidently their electricity is off this morning due to the bunny rabbit that lives in their apartment chewing through a major cord. Fortunately, the bunny is still alive, even if the electricity isn't. Love to you guys.
Day 6 is Hot, Hot, Hot!!!
It seems as thought all I do is take showers -- about three a day! Last night was a magnificent thunder storm, but the skies were blue today and that meant Hot! I don't really mind taking showers (it feels so good), but the problem is that D & C do not have a dryer, so going through your underwear and your clothing very fast is not such a good idea. I also realize that all my cotton clothing is heavy cotton -- not gauzy and light -- that would be preferable here. In fact, my really inexpensive Fred Meyer pants and top are the best because the blouse is so lightweight.
We had a lovely experience last night -- went to the Night Safari at the zoo. It was wonderful. You ride in a dark open tram and the guide speaks quietly in a rather singsong voice. The animals are awake -- and you go through this lush jungle-like rain forest until you get to an animal enclosure which is lit with an artificial moonlight. Some of the animals are simply roaming right outside the tram -- others seem to be very close and you wonder why they don't rush the tram. It is quite a lovely experience. Some of us went over to the tiger area and we watched a tiger through a glass barrier, but we were easily within two feet of the animal. It was awesome -- I have never seen a wild animal up so close (unless you count the Yosemite bears that amble around your tents). Then, we went to the animal show which was enjoyable -- especially when the tiger wouldn't mind and refused to jump until most of the people left the arena. Nighttime is definitely the time to roam Singapore --still hot, but not quite as bad.
Today, we headed for the Bird Park. We went to the bird show, had a mediocre breakfast in an outside cafe overlooking the flamingo pond, and then went through some of the exhibits. It was just hot! This made it less enjoyable for me -- although we did see some good exhibits - like the penguis. I love penguins!!! Since it was so hot, we came home and went swimming in the pool -- but even the pool was rather warm -- but refreshing.
We had another lovely night experience -- we had dinner at the Fullerton Hotel. D & C had been there once before for an appetizer buffet, but tonight they had a seafood buffet. We sat outside right on the Singapore River and had a long, leisurely meal -- Mariel had on her new Yellow dress which Dani had bought her in Little India. She looked like a little Catholic child ready for her First Communion -- it is fancy fluffy! The kids were marvelously well behaved since they put up with the adults who ate over a period of a couple of hours.
This hotel is right on the river along with rows of restaurants which are framed by downtown skyscrapers. There are interesting bridges over the water and we walked over one to the museum (which was closed), and down the riverbank to see the Raffles statue. Thousands of Singaporeans were dining and walking and it was like the middle of the day -- but tourist boats were traveling the river and it looked just like Disneyland at night. Lights twinkling on the river, skyscrapers glittering the in the background, music playing from boats and clubs, voices of diners, and pedestrians, Mariel and James running along the riverbank. It was a lovely scene. Caught another taxi home (they are the coolest places in town)and now I'm getting ready for bed.
We've been going at quite a pace, but I've managed to read a few books. I think we'll slow down a bit next week. We've been trying to get things in with Jay and Cindy here -- and before James is out of school. I'm either going to get used to the heat, or wilt before long. Love to you -- Washington weather really looks terrific from here.
June 17, 2005
Day 5 - Around the city with Jay, Cindy, and Mariel
Today we took a trip after breakfast (papaya and banana toast and tea!) to Little India. And, Martin, it poured down rain after we got into the market -- (at least we didn't get wet). We wandered around and couldn't get into the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple, but ate lunch at a little fast food place across the street. We had a bunch of dishes and sauces served on a banana leaf (maybe called Thali) -- one with cucumber, another with green beans, a third that looked almost liked creamed spinach, and five different sauces. Then we had two kinds of Dosas - one plain and the other with potatoes and onions served with three sauces.
We then walked over to the Sultan Mosque just as hundreds of men were pouring out following their worship. Some women, too, were in the crowd, but the streets were simply teeming with men. We did get to go into the mosque later and walk around. I gave Dani a heart attack because I put a step onto the carpet -- strictly a no no. We walked through the market by the mosque which was a series of very nice shops. I bought a purse and a couple of embroidered bags.
We followed this up by having high tea at Raffles. It was another buffet with finger foods such as little meat pastries and pies, tea sandwiches, quiches -- lots of different ethnicities -- and a variety of sweets including rather pedestrian scones. But, I had Assam tea while everyone else had coffee -- how do you go to tea and have coffee??? Oh well! The day ended up rather overcast because of the rain -- which meant that traveling around the city was not unbearable even if it was a bit sticky warm. We're supposed to go to the night safari tonight -- but we'll see. Everybody is a bit frazzled from the long day in the city and lots of walking. Mariel is a wonderful trouper although she did get to play in the Lego display in Robinson's Department store while Dani, Cindy and I looked in the housewares. As I mentioned before, this is the great Singapore Sale Month -- and this weekend is 15% off of the sale price. We had about a half hour before our tea reservation -- and the Raffles City mall is just across the street. There are malls everywhere!!!
June 16, 2005
Day 4 - It's hot here!
The rain went away and left some clouds, but it is hot today. Dani and I ran to Ikea (just up the block from her apartment) to get some more sheets and pillows for Jay and Cindy's visit. Then, we went to the Hawker Center where we had Claypot Laksa (shrimp/prawns, noodles, fish cake, deep fried tofu in a spicy sauce with coconut milk). It was HOT and SPICY! But, oh so good. I couldn't believe that we were eating such hot food when I was hot already. A lime cooler helped, and also we opened our package of napkins from our IKEA bag since it was so messy. This afternoon we went to see James' enrichment class presentation -- his film about his shark. Then shopping at a European market and back home. Dani's now making dinner. I'm hoping to find a way to get some pictures up on the web.
June 15, 2005
I'm Waking Up - Day 3
I actually stayed awake all day today and slept all night last night. Martin asked about food -- at the Tiffin Room at Raffles, we ate from a buffet featuring Northern Indian food. There were no traditional curry dishes which surprised me. But, lots of different sauces and fish. Most were quite spicey. We ate okra, potatoes in sauces, lamb, chicken, and some really good white fish. All were in sauces. There were probably 30 different dishes - and a cold buffet with cucumber-like salads and a dessert kiosk with many different pudding-like desserts as well as honey-soaked cakes.
Martin, in your honor we began the day at Killaney Kopitiam for Kaya Toast and White Coffee! We had planned to go to the orchid garden, but it was pouring rain so we went to the Takashimayo mall. Takashimayo is a huge department store and we wandered around two floors -- the housewares and the gourmet foods area. I had a taste of a Durian tart with uncooked Durian -- it was Ok, but not memorable. Dani bought some cooked Durian pastries which she proceded to throw away because they were awful. We then wandered the Kinoquniwa??? bookstore which had surprisingly few British mysteries -- not as many as Chapters in Canada has. It is obvious that American mystery writers rule the genre! We met Charles for some wonderful Dim Sum for lunch. Their special today was Peking Duck -- they served the crispy skin with special pancakes and sauce and cucumber, and the meat with noodles. We also had the requisite steamed pork dumplings and other assorted wonderful Dim Sum that was delicious. Tonight we went back to Orchard Street (which reminds me of Times Square) for a light repast of Sushi. It is a fast food restaurant where the sushi comes around on a conveyer belt and where you order on your own computer - James loved it. I guess it is one of their favorite places.
The taxi is certainly the preferred way of traveling -- not very expensive (probably $3.50 American to anywhere), and easy to access from any street. I'm amazed at all the really expensive name brand shops in almost every mall, the lightening storms along with the heat which makes for the lush growth of greenery and the humidity. Dani's maid came today and all my clothing got ironed. Tomorrow Jay, Cindy and Mariel come from Hong Kong where they are spending the summer. Jay is doing some research. I think we will be doing kid things for a few days -- although the women may sneak away for high tea. Love to you guys!
June 14, 2005
Day 2 and Raffles
Greetings! I have jet lag. I fall asleep in the middle of the day and last night I fell asleep again at 8:30 only to awaken in the middle of the night. Since Charles was sleeping on the sofa, I traded places with him and sent him into the bedroom so I could just read. I looked for hot chocolate to send me back to sleep, but I could only find Ben and Jerrys -- that didn't put me to sleep, but satisfied me otherwise!
Since I was low on energy, we just went to Raffles mall and wandered a bit. Had coffee at a little French deli and then ate lunch in Raffles Tiffin Room and wandered through the hotel. It was Indian food which is not my forte, but an excellent buffet and it did seem appropriate to have the full treatment. It is hot, but breezy and certainly doable. If I could only keep awake long enough to enjoy myself.
Dani and Charles' friends Rossi and Budi came to dinner last night and left today for Indonesia, so we now have their apartment for the rest of the time -- that means two large beds instead on one. Dani lives on the 9th floor and they are on the 14th with a view of the water. It is beautiful here with all the lush trees and flowers. I'm sure that I will even enjoy it more when I wake up. All of Singapore is on sale, and I bought a cresch today in the Olathe store, Martin. Love you guys!
June 12, 2005
Dani and I made it through the long plane ride without much communication! We either had our noses in films or sleep. The first ten hours were fairly smooth and we each watched three films. I watched a French film (forgot the name) and Hitch and The Wedding Date. I think Dani watched the latter two and Be Cool with John Travolta. We both liked Hitch -- I'd recommend renting the DVD. Spanglish, which we watched last week, is still our favorite, however. The second flight was at night and a bit more turbulent -- but we mostly slept. At Korea we were sent all over the airport to reboard so we got in a long walk. Then, we arrived here and took a taxi to their apartment.
I agree with Dani about Singpore Airlines. They had my allegience when, in the first half hour, they brought around piping hot towels for us to wash our hands and face. The food was excellent and plentiful! Of course, the fact that they passed out really good ice cream twice helped their case.
We had a good night's sleep so I don't feel much different today.
We woke up to overcast skies and a fairly cool Singapore. This is a nice entry for me since I don't always do heat well. After James went to school, we walked through a bit of the Botanic Gardens until the mall opened and we could have tea and scones at the Cafe Rosso in Holland Village. We then bought food for dinner and came back to the apartment. Dani took me downstairs in her complex to the little mini mart to meet Mrs. Lam and we are about to go upstairs to have tea with her friend, Rossi.
I was surprised because I wasn't expecting the cars to drive on the opposite side of the street and I was somewhat appalled by all the American fast food places. We went to an ex-pat store, so most of the products were similar to the US. These were only two first impressions. The other was amazement that this small apartment has three bathrooms!!! More at another time. Love to you all.