Monday, October 30, 2006

The UneXpected @ Walla Walla

Saturday night, The UneXpected (a rock band) gave an impressive (yes, better than expected) show at a bar in Holland Village, Singapore. A mix of everything...they were pretty good at playing anything on request. Once I find a sound clip that's better than my amateur video taking skills, I'll post it for sure. Pics below: Damien, a Malaysian-Singaporean friend we met through AIESIC, took us to Walla Walla bar for beer and the best pizza I've had in Singapore yet. (real veggies and cheese, even a normal crust). Quite different to hawker center-style western food!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

PowerJam @ Zouk

Ugh...TIRED at work this morning! Singapore's local rock radio station, Power98 held the rock band finals last night at Zouk, one of a couple popular clubs here. Very good guitar, rock music, although some of the singing was not so great. A band called Shotgun Experiment won first place $50000 in cash and prizes. Very interesting to here the Singaporean idols (the real ones, not the Asian version of ABC's foolish auditions on tv).

Some runners up, bands called Fat Franks, Desert Rose, and one called The Nerves...good guitar, couldn't sing, but the crowd went crazy for them (judges didn't).

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera on me, and PowerJam's website doesn't really do any band any justice, but check out the link if you're interested in what a Singaporean band looks like...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Penang: History & Beaches

An hour north of KL by flight, Penang is a beautiful city full of history, culture and a few beaches. Batu Friingi has an awesome night market; even better than Jamaica. I never thought vendors would so easily budge on a price. Walk away and they follow you, offering another 25% off. Carvings, clothing, beautiful items that surely cost a fortune at home. (The seemingly cheap Chinese decorations I bought for my apartment in Canada are 3 for 10 MYR here).The Ringgit is 3.4 to the Canadian dollar and Malaysians don't believe in coffee tax; quite refreshing after Singapore!!

Also visited the snake temple...where we found a real lizard, and Joanne got friendly with the snakes...

Sipping Coconuts in the Sun
Shopping in both KL and Penang was ridicuously cheap, although brand name goods and mp3 players seem to be a similarily priced everywhere. I've been asked for pics of my purchases, will post the non-gifts on my Flickr! Traditional malaysian cookies are interesting as well; will bring home souvenirs...and likely ship home the clothing, oops!

Spent Tuesday morning tanning on the beach by our hotel; so hot I'm tanned already! Unfortunately, we didn't make it to Langkawi due to our four day time constraint...I've heard wonderful things about crystal clear beaches. It's on the list right before Thailand!
P.S. Please start posting comments or chat through the Talk boxes; blogs are better as communities :-)

Kuala Lumpur: A Taxi Tour

Spent the long weekend completely offline, touring around Kuala Lumpur and Penang, Malaysia. KL is an amazing city; just the feel of it was so much more real than Singapore (hang onto your purses ladies!). Sure, Singapore is much cleaner, more business like...but KL had the greenery, dirtier streets, night markets and a more apparent local culture. Some places didn't even have real toilets, I waited 20 minutes for the one stall...not quite that brave!

Joanne and I met a Buddhist taxi driver "Uncle" who really showed us around for two days.The best part wasn't the touristy places he showed us, but the amount I learned of the culture from him. Even his apologetic but sincere assurance that we should look for a Chinese taxi driver was helpful...apparently the Indian drivers have a history of drinking on the job. Joanne assured him that I wouldn't be too offended, as I'm the Indian version of what they call "bananas" in Chinese (white on the inside)!!

We ate mostly at hawker centres, sometimes in Western places, where, surprisingly, I found a much larger variety of vegetarian food :) Possibly because there are quite a few buddhists in country. Finding a vegetarian sandwich, and people that understood the concept of substitution was refreshing! I've got to say, despite the Singapore tourism board's assurance that this is a land of smiles, service is MUCH better in Malaysia.
The Batu Caves in KL are really a unique site; A Hindu temple and art gallery within a cave; statues, artwork, stories (unfortunately written in Urdo). I'll let the pictures do the place justice. I 've never seen so many monkeys! Mischievious for sure; Curious George wasn't called curious for nothing! They're also not shy about when and where they have sex...although really quick and easy to miss, this is quite the show for us tourists!

Maybe the most interesting part of KL was walking through Chinese temples. So...calming. Like you can feel a calming presence, acceptance, despite feeling no religious association at all. Watching people light candles, light josh (incense) sticks and pray with them,marveling at the art work, breathing in the smoky air. We made a prayer, held fortune sticks, and dropped them into the pot; the one stick that lands higher than the others corresponds to a number. The number corresponds to one of over 40 boxes, and the box contains a fortune. As you know, I am not the religious type by any means, but was it simply coincidence that every temple I visited gave me a fortune along similar lines?

Temples, mosques, churches, a beautiful city called Putrajaya, outside of KL...if I were to describe them all, this entry would be enormous. Not to worry, the slideshow below (COMING SOON) will likely give you a good overview; I promise to post descriptions on my Flickr in two or three days. (I'm working some overtime for work, so be patient please!) Again, click on the left-hand side Flickr badge to view more pics.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Unexpected Visitor at BLUE

So...going about work as usual today, and guess who flies in the window? A sparrow! Yes, I said fly IN the window. It's so hot and humid here, we have central air someone decided to open a window. No screens...and in flies this bird. Apparently this is not so rare; has happened before. Usually it's the mynah birds I'm told. (black ones with yellow beaks). Cute on the ground, but surely scary if they fly past your head. Someone got a pic on their cell phone of the "bird catcher" (guy with a net who let the bird back outside); if I can get access to it, I'll post it!

By the way, will be off blogger for the long weekend...heading to KL and Penang (Malaysia)! Back Tuesday, so be sure to check for more posts.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Singapore Zoo

Sunday at the Zoo...cute animals! (Turn off pop-up blockers for this site, please!)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

One Size Fits All? A Note on Shopping in Singapore

You may have heard that Singapore is a shopper's paradise...ok, yes, it is true that they shop A LOT, but paradise is expensive, except for millions of shoes and purses!

Does one size fit all? Here, they assume it does. In fact, a lot of the smaller shops carry "free-size" only. At first, it sounds like they're saying "three size(s)", but nope, one size. And on some sale racks, you can't even try the size on. Ladies, if you are bigger than a size 4 (Canadian), watch out! They are very blunt about telling you exactly where you're too big for the clothes to fit and why...

"That's M-size, won't fit. You need XL-size, la. Don't worry, L-size will stretch".
To give them credit,they are very good at guessing sizes.If they say it won't fit, it won't. They are also gorgeous. Most women look like models, all day. They fit into the tiny little train seats well, have perfect hair, makeup, everything. Some consolation...I'm sure the average bra size here is AA.

So,where do you shop? Anywhere, everywhere; there's a shopping centre under every MRT station.However, Singaporeans do walk slow. Slooooooooooooow, to be more accurate, so that can get annoying. Edmontonians, daily shopping here is like West Edmonton Mall on a Saturday before xmas!

Even at the gym here, I feel enormous! They may walk slow, but some of them can kickbox like characters from Mortal Kombat. Since an intern here makes less than a quarter of what they would in Canada, in SGD (ie: $4 an hour) maybe this is motivation not to shop!

Who am I kidding? Malaysia,here I come!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sentosa Island: The Imported Beach

We were total tourists today, checking out Sentosa Island. A tiny beach, really, a few cruise ships, some boats...and oil ships. Not really water you want to swim in, although there are a whole lot of fun, touristy, things to do on the island. And no, despite our best efforts, we have not yet found the monkeys that supposedly roam freely.

The locals joke that it's Singapore's "imported" beach. From the top of the cable car, you can see why...looks like they handpicked the beach, and carefully placed it into the ocean! It's not really natural with sand imported from Australia. Check out the construction crane behind the palm trees!

We decided to hang out at the resort pool instead. Watched a classic "wrestling" game for the kids on the resort...last kid standing wins!

Probably the most touristy show on the itinerary, the "Magical Light Show" was actually cool; they had animations, lights, fountains, and fire all together. Check out the creepy eyed Merlion, with lit-up eyes, behind us.

One thing the tour books miss though...if you're here, you have got to do "The Luge". Kinda like a go-kart, but goes waaaaay faster; you control the speed and steer. There's a reason they give you helmets!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Hazy Days

Despite the thick haze that's been clouding over Singapore & Malaysia this last week (from the Indonesian forest fires), kids yesterday thought nothing of playing with sparklers...setting potential fires in the middle of fields, for the Chinese Lantern festival. Window watching from Sean & Waten's apartment was an interesting site...apparently the indoor kitties aren't as scary as the cats that live outside my door. Here's their kitty...

Hanging out with the locals is the best part here. Local hawker centers, outdoor food courts are open late into the night and serve...well...mainly inexpensive Tiger & Baron's beer. Yes...strange as it is...I have begun to like, or at least not mind, the taste of cold beer. on a hot day ( At $9 hiballs my rum & cokes will have to wait!) Great conversation, swapping our stories from different parts of the world. Random tidbits follow...

Hawker Center Pics: Stalls last night closed at midnight...and opened at 2 am.
  • "Takes you ONLY One hour? (to get to work?) This is Sing-a-pore! First time I've heard anyone say ONLY one hour!" (It takes some of us one & a half hours; NTU is really far from everything else)

  • "Singaporean police are just bored, la...they have nothing to do here!"

  • Stories of Banff Hotsprings...- 30 degree weather...and Canada's not so strict marajiuana laws (death penalty here) surprised a few Japanese friends. Special orders have been placed...for the Canadian Mooncake :-)
  • Our cab driver home ensured us the suffocatingly thick haze was deliberate burning of land, not forest fire. "You think it's nat-u-ral, la?! They are selfish, it is the government, la! They don't like it, they burn it. Cause trouble for everyone else