Singapore

Our journey to and arrival in Bali

We left for Bali as millionaires. This is nearly 6 million Indonesian Rupiah (5,886,094IDR, 600SGD, $441USD -- our dollar is very nice in Indonesia!). As you will see later, you do not have to be a millionaire to eat and drink well in Bali... we still came home with cash in hand (flight and hotels not included).

We had our traditional (apparently this is something we do) Nando's lunch before heading out for our flight. We actually got to the airport with about two hours to spare. This is a rarity for us, I always feel like we're rushing when we get to the airport. But Changi is such a breeze and we've very rarely encountered even a short wait for anything. We leisurely walked toward our gate, had a drink and a snack at Starbucks and took a photo where we were both smiling actual smiles (we were laughing because we had to take about 15 to agree on one). Then we enjoyed these nice, relaxing (but creepy - who else is laying on these things, and how often are they cleaned..?? And sleeping in public..? yikes.) lounge chairs just outside security for our gate.

There was nothing eventful to report from the flight, other than TigerAir is a major step down from our last flight into Singapore (and especially from our upcoming flight to Australia on SingaporeAir), and the guy who had the aisle seat next to us was the actual worst. He originally sat across the aisle from us in an "empty" section of three. I say "empty" because there were still a ton of people boarding. He unloaded a stack of books, tablets, phones and pens from his bag, shoved them into the pocket in front of him, and removed his shoes! A group of three people approached him and he said "oh, you can sit there!" (pointing next to us) and they said "no... we're all together." So he had to gather up his stack of belongings, and his shoes, and disruptively move across the aisle to his appropriate seat. Once the plane was in motion he got up and took his suitcase from the overhead bin and walked it to the front of the plane. He proceeded to rummage through his suitcase and walk back and forth from his case to his seat over the course of maybe 20 or more minutes. In all of my flights, of all the disruptive passengers (loud talkers, non-earphone video watchers, babies, snifflers) he had to be the most obliviously rude passenger I've seen yet. And as Jess just pointed out, he did *nothing* with his stack of belongings for the entire flight.

There were some amazing views flying over the islands, and once we got to the big islands we saw mountains and volcanos. Unfortunately TigerAir was too cramped for me to comfortably get my camera from my backpack under the seat to take any photos. So have these phone pictures!

Once we got to Bali, customs and immigrations was quick, I honestly don't even remember it at this point. I am very glad though that we had arranged pick up with our hotel, because the amount of cab drivers trying to get your attention was overwhelming. We found our driver quickly and he led us to the exit, where he promptly left us to go get his van. As you'd expect, we had more drivers trying to pick us up here. We waited for maybe 5 minutes, but the heat was so oppressive it felt like a lot longer.

Our driver from the airport was probably the best driver we had the whole time (I felt like we were going to die less times with him than the others), and he spoke English relatively well for someone who only started learning a few months prior. He taught us "terima kasih" (thank you) and "sama sama" (you're welcome). We learned nothing else of the language the rest of the time. He was very giggly and chatty, as Jess pointed out probably because his English wasn't perfect and he didn't understand everything we were saying. And he was intuitive enough to ask if I needed him to pull over when I started breathing loudly (I had no idea) about ten minutes outside of our destination. Even with nausea meds, the roads and driving in Bali made me feel extremely ill.

We arrived at our resort in time for dinner. Despite having only outdoor seating, we were happy to sit down at the resort restaurant and take a look at the menu. For once I made the perfect decisions; my food was amazing and I think Jess was less than thrilled with his choice (we don't even have pictures of it). Don't worry, I could never eat all of mine so we shared. I'm typically the one to make the wrong menu choices though, so I was very pleased with myself. I had a Thai salad with prawns (heads and everything! - I didn't eat the heads), and a big tuna steak. I don't usually like my tuna cooked all the way through, but it was done perfectly. I could go for that entire meal again right now. The drinks weren't great, but we kept ordering them because they were significantly cheaper than Singapore.

Once we got back to our room we had the most refreshing showers of our lives thus far (the trip gets hotter and more humid). However, our hotel did not provide wash cloths, so we washed ourselves with hand towels. We later learned that that's something they don't provide in Bali, like anywhere. So if you're planning a trip, take a wash cloth and/or bath sponge.

After showers we laid in bed, scrolling through Facebook and Imgur on our phones, and talking about turning on the tv until we eventually fell asleep.

Thankfully it was a fairly early night, and we were up somewhat early the next day for our "half day tour" that came with our reservation package. The resort also provided daily breakfast, and we took full advantage of it. I had the best french toast ever... it doesn't look like much, but it was perfect, crispy and fluffy.

Next up: the longest, hottest, most exhausting day of my life.

*We stayed at the Anulekha Resort. I would definitely recommend this place if you're looking for a nicer, lower priced resort in the Ubud area. There are plenty of nice resorts (including the Hanging Gardens, where Jess wanted to stay), but Anulekha was about half the price and had great package options.

Is it too late to say I'm sorry?

In addition to having the Biebs stuck in my head for weeks, I really am sorry that it's been so long since I've posted!! Partly because I have sooo many photos that haven't been posted and I'm terrified to organize them.

Since the last post we had just come back from Bali. We spent a few days back here in Singapore, then left for Sydney/Canberra for just over a week, then came back to Singapore for a few days before heading back out to Hong Kong for a long weekend. Now we're back and just have a couple weeks left here before heading to JAPAN (yes! Officially confirmed!) before going home (finally!).

Soooo... I'm going to talk to Jess this evening about how we should try to organize the rest of these posts and start putting them together. Have a photo from each country to hold you over until the next post. ;)

Bali, Indonesia

Sydney, Australia (Mrs Macquarie's Chair)

Tung Choi St, Hong Kong

A new appreciation for Singapore's weather

We just got back in from Bali and I have over 400 photos to sort through, and Jess will need to edit his video. So for the time being, here is a collection of photos from the last two weeks that didn't make it into the blog yet. The weather was so incredibly hot it makes Singapore's weather seem mild. We are thankful to be back to 96, feels like 99 with overcast skies.

First... a montage of motor bikes on sidewalks. I think we've already said that's a thing here. On our way back into the apartment just now we were met by a Harley coming toward us on the sidewalk to make a left turn while avoiding traffic. I'm not sure if there are any rules to how long or how far you're allowed to ride your bike on the sidewalks, or if you're actually allowed to do it at all, but it happens. Frequently.

And then just some photos from around our neighborhood at night... most of these are just across the street in the Arab Quarter, and a couple are a few blocks down.

Though unapproved graffiti is very illegal here, there is a lot of wall art all around Singapore.

And this is where I typically do my morning reading and sunning, before it gets hot and I meet Jess for lunch. A storm was brewing this day, obviously. It looked like it was coming much sooner than it did. If I'm remembering correctly, I made it upstairs, showered and dressed, and walked 15 minutes to meet Jess, waited probably 5-10 for him to come downstairs, then went to lunch before it started. Wherever we went to lunch that day didn't have a view to outside, and by the time we were finished with lunch the rain had stopped. They come and go pretty quickly (usually), a lot like Florida storms. But on days that it rains the dark clouds tend to stick around, like today.

And an assortment of food and restaurant photos. The first four are from NamNam Noodle Bar in Suntec. My food was delicious, but it ended up being too spicy for me to even eat half of it. I needed about three more egg yolks to cool it down! The tea is lychee, which is common in this area and I love it. In tea form. I don't like to eat the lychee though. The texture is kind of like a weird tough soggy grape. The last photo is fried bananas with coconut cream. Yum!

Another night we went to Eighteen Chefs in Bugis. They really advertise their "heart attack fried rice" but I was kind of underwhelmed by my regular fried rice. Jess got his smothered in cheese with beef. Again... I could have used more egg! And the Batman display was set up in the middle of the mall, two floors under the movie theatre, to promote the new Batman movie.

I had been on a streak of underwhelming food choices when we came across Kko Kko Chicken. We had been searching for Thai across the street, but this drew our interest when we walked by. What a great choice! I had claypot bi bim bap and it was perfect. I took a picture of the bottom of my rice because the bits touching the claypot got crunchy... and I love a crunch! It also had egg, seaweed, some vegetables, and beef. I've been craving it again ever since and Jess gets annoyed every time I suggest bi bim bap... even though he really enjoyed his food, too! He had Korean fried chicken with a sweet and sour sauce. It wasn't as crispy as Bon Chon (at home, since we determined we don't like the one here), but the sauce was incredibly delicious. And everything in the restaurant lights up... what's not to like??

Then some desserts... One night I decided we should just have ice cream for dinner. Jess didn't say no... so that's what we did. We went to Swenson's, which is basically an Asian Friendly's (western food) but the food looked worse than Friendly's food, so glad we chose to just have ice cream (which was delicious!). The cream puff is from a place in Bugis, I don't remember the name. We had 3... I might just not love cream puffs, or again, they don't make anything sweet enough here. The cream inside should have been sweeter, and the outside needed a crunch or crispiness to satisfy me. And the beehive looking thing is a chocolate banana tart with meringue on top. It had a nice sweetness, and the meringue was a little crunchy. Good for me!

On our way out to Mustafa center and City Square one day we stopped at the Ramen Stall for lunch. Food was fine, nothing particularly good or bad about it. But they had a large menu including ramen, some sushi, yakitori and some other things. Jess had ramen, I had a California roll (overpriced like they all are here... for some reason California rolls are always around $10-14). When we got to City Square we went to a grocery store. I had been craving beanies and weenies...we were unaware it would be such a difficult thing to acquire. We found Heinz English style beans and chicken hot dogs (absolutely no beef or pork dogs anywhere!). We did manage to find hot dog buns though, which I thought was going to be the most difficult find. This store did not have brown sugar for my beans, but I made do with just some additional ketchup. We've since found brown sugar though!

Okay, my apologies because this is a very cut up post. But I had an array of things that hadn't been posted before we left for Bali. I wanted to get the random one-shots out of the way first... now I think we're going backwards and forwards again in time for the next sets of photos.

One evening last week or the week before (it's been a while) we met up with Jess' friend Jayson in Chinatown. Never let boys do the planning. Unknown to me, they planned to meet at "the famous food center." Clearly they both had a different food center in mind. So Jess and I had our Uber driver drop us off at Maxwell Food Center, famous for the Tian Tian chicken rice. We waited around for a response from Jayson, since he doesn't have cell service here he was contacting us during wifi connection or when he had a minute to stop and connect the data service on his iPad.

Unfortunately Tian Tian chicken was closed, so we didn't get to experience it. However, we found these amazing little fried donuts. A little old Asian woman was working at this stall, stirring fried dough in a giant vat of oil. I ordered sweet potato, pandan coconut, and peanut. Each was a fried ball of dough with a surprise in the center, and they were all amazing. I'm glad Tian Tian was closed, because that means I can talk Jess into going for more donuts at some point. No pictures of them because I ate them so quickly. But I will take pictures next time!

This is when we learned that Jayson was at Food Street. Thankfully it was only a block away, so we met him over there for dinner. This is where we ate last time we were in Chinatown, but there are a ton of food stalls, and we tried new things like fried carrot cake (hint, it's not carrot cake).

After dinner we walked around for a while. We had to pay to use a bathroom (this was a first, but not a last). There was a man sitting at a children's school desk outside the bathrooms, and he handed me a folded up section of toilet paper on my way in. Thankfully I carry my own tissues, and have made a specific point since then to continue carrying them (especially in Bali!!).

We walked around the shops for a bit and found some amazing souvenirs... I won't be posting spoilers here, but we're probably going back for more. I also found a great rainbow dress for $10SGD, so more clothes shopping might be necessary too.

And if I haven't said so already, yes, there is durian everywhere. Stalls of it. But there are signs asking you not to bring it on public transit because its smell is so strong. Though we thought there was a lot of durian here, there's even more in Bali. You become immune to the smell because it's seriously everywhere, but we still haven't tried it. One of our drivers in Bali told us it's better and sweeter in Bali, but we never made time to try it.

Before leaving Chinatown I made another attempt at using a bathroom. This time in the train station. I walked out faster than I walked in.  No locks, no toilet paper, and the grossest place I have seen in all of Singapore.

I mentioned above that we went out to Mustafa Center and City Square Mall. Mustafa center is a huge 24 hour department store. I really should have taken pictures, but I think we're going again tomorrow so I will take some then. I don't know how many floors... maybe 4 or 6? But one entire floor is electronics, one entire floor is gold jewelry, one entire floor is bath and pharmacy products, one is groceries, etc etc. I'm pretty sure there were at least one or two more levels.

On our way we came across the two oldest cemeteries in Singapore, which were also the first cemeteries we've seen here. I had been curious about this since the city is so congested and everything is built so high, I was wondering what they did with all the deceased (or maybe people just don't die here??). I'm still not sure, because it looks like this cemetery hasn't been in use in quite some time, and apparently there is talk of it being removed.

These pictures are from the Old Malay Cemetery, next to the Muslim Cemetery (both the oldest). This is an interesting article about the cemeteries and future plans. 

And much like the rest of Singapore, there is fantastic architecture everywhere.

Kranji: Monitors and Monkeys and Crocs - Oh My!

Saturday evening we had planned to "probably" go to Kranji Sunday morning. I set my alarm for 9, hoping we would get out at least kind of early, but I slept until 10. Then Jess slept until 11, despite my half hearted attempts at waking him via finger pokes (which he apparently did not feel at all, this is what I deal with).

I had wanted to see the Singapore "country side" since we got here, but it's a 30 minute drive and a lot of walking once we got out there. I had also wanted to see Pulau Ubin, which is a relatively undeveloped smaller island off the north eastern coast. So we argued about which adventure to take for the next couple of hours. By argue I mean I debated with myself because I couldn't make a decision, and Jess kept saying he didn't want to do either so it was up to me.

While both trips had positives and negatives, we ultimately settled on Kranji because that was our original plan. Hopefully we will have another weekend that we can still see Pulau Ubin.

We hopped in an Uber and took a very long and very quiet drive to the north western side of the country. Finally about two minutes from our destination the driver spoke up and said "I haven't been out here in a long time, this is a nice area." But he was also wondering what we were doing way out there, and probably wondering how we planned to get back home (yep... wait for it).

We were dropped off at a farm called Bollywood Veggies. I had found this place in one of my various searches and I'm still not sure why or how this was in my list. It was a very ...busy place. There were lots of silly signs and families partaking in the farm's various random activities.

We walked around on one of their trails for a while, astonished and confused. Finally we laughed about something (one of the signs, the banana tree, the creepy scarecrow? I don't remember what), then got the cameras out and started to document this trip.

We ended our trip to Bollywood Veggies with an assortment of cakes and teas; banana bread, chocolate banana bread, kueh bingka (tapioca cake), kueh kosui (palm sugar cake), fig tea, and aloe vera drink. The banana breads were delicious and the other two were interesting in flavor, but the textures were not for me, and once again not so sweet.

Meanwhile we were trying not to panic because there were no Ubers close enough to pick us up, and we learned that the walk to the wildlife park was less than safe (no sidewalks, windy road). So we walked around the corner where there was a resort, restaurant, bar, garden and nest museum, and marshes. This place was basically a ghost town. There was one other couple sitting on a bench, and nothing was open. There was no marsh in sight, and the resort was villas behind a gate.

We started to walk further away to see if we could find these marshes, then noticed a bus schedule. That's what this couple was waiting for, and two stops away was where we wanted to go! So we decided to wait 15 minutes for the bus.

The bus was five minutes late, and when it arrived it was ...I guess a bus, but I would really call it a large van. There were maybe 22 seats in this van, and probably about 32 people squeezed in. I took the accompanying picture after some people got off and before more got on. Our stop was not two away like the schedule said, it was four. And there was body odor and unfamiliar bodies standing very close together.

It was refreshing to get off the bus and feel the cool breezes and the shade at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. We made note that the bus would pick up from this location two more times and we could take it to the final stop, which was a train station where we could definitely pick up an Uber. (As you might guess, that is not what we did).

First stop, potty! Outdoor bathrooms again. Honestly, these outdoor bathrooms are nicer and cooler than some of the indoor bathrooms in the malls. For some reason a lot of the mall bathrooms are down long access hallways and seem to not be air conditioned. At least the outdoor bathrooms have shade and a slight breeze, and no creepy hallways.

After walking in a circle we decided on a starting path and headed that way. I quickly realized this was no joke, and we may be encountering some large, up close wild animals. And I was positive we were going to come across a crocodile.

We walked across a nice breezy bridge that was far from the water, trees, and ground. I joked about rounding the corner and seeing a crocodile in our path. As we actually rounded the corner we entered a hide with a long rectangular window facing the water, not much going on. We walked out and started down the dirt path and I quickly stopped and thought "holy crap, a crocodile already!?" Thank god it was just a "tiny" monitor. We stayed back from it since it was almost as big as my dog and I was unsure what these things are like. There was a man about to cross it's path, so I focused my camera on it to try to get him to notice that I was photographing something close to him. He noticed, and he did a little jump, then continued walking on while watching it back into the trees.

We then spotted several more lurking in the trees and water just off the path and I was convinced that a crocodile could and would sneak up on us just as easily.

There were multiple hides, piers and lookouts along the path, and after the initial mass of monitors we hadn't seen anymore animals (oh yea, except for a few squirrels or chipmunks or squirrel-chipmunk hybrids in the trees).

We heard a lot of different birds but could only find the obvious herons and other small birds. At one point we definitely heard a parrot cackling, and another bird making an interesting barking sound. I'm assuming they're either good at throwing their voices or they are teeny tiny, because we looked really hard and at least once the tree was not very full.

More than halfway around the trail we came across some turtles, snails and mudskippers. We started winding down and realized it was almost time for the next bus pick up, so we started to hurry toward the end of the trail.

We got almost to the end of the path and noticed a handful of nature photographers with some pretty serious camouflaged camera set ups. Oh snap! There was a big ol' crocodile out in the water, just chilling on a rock with his big toothy mouth wide open. I took a few shots, and Jess got a video, and then we hurried on to the end of the path. We found a map and noticed this was only half the park! I suddenly had another burst of energy (and apathy for riding that "bus" again) and decided the monkeys must be in the other half of the park. We knew there were supposed to be monkeys because a sign in the beginning of the park warned us to not go on a certain trail if we were afraid of being harassed by them.

So we skipped past the entrance of the park and moved toward the second trail. I was less concerned about crocodiles on this side since there was no immediate water near the path. We walked past more photographers with super serious set ups (who were photographing a bird that we couldn't even see with our eyes) and started on a wooden path. I saw children playing on a rope bridge and quickly became hopeful that we would enjoy this side of the park more.

I was right! The (stupid) kids were chasing a family of monkeys! There was a mama, a papa, and a teeny tiny little baby. They were running all along the railings of the bridges and playing with each other and really just ignoring the humans. I squealed in delight a few times. If for some reason you don't know this about me I have always been obsessively in love with monkeys, and this was just about the coolest thing ever.

I took a million photos (actually, not many more than what I'm sharing here) and Jess took some more video. They jumped off the railing and ran toward the trees and started playing in the branches. At one point the baby climbed out to the tip of a branch and the branch bent down toward the sidewalk. Then the mama followed and the branch bent so low it nearly touched the sidewalk, then the mama jumped off. The branch flung back so quickly I thought the baby was going to be launched into outer space (you can hear me expressing so in the video). Then they did this again and again, and eventually the baby monkey took off on the ground toward me. I thought I squealed in terror because I knew territorial papa would not be far behind, and I didn't want to get bitten, but on playback it turns out I only said "no no no, please don't come to me."

At this point the rest of the trip didn't matter, but we were in the middle of the park and had to get to an exit, so we ventured on. They had a bunch of these neat lookouts that Jess likened to something from the game Myst. Can confirm, I watched him play it once.

We stopped and enjoyed some more amazing breezes on the high walkways and continued on. To the right was swampy woodlands, and to the left the Strait of Johor, Malaysia and a marshy shore filled with garbage. So much trash! Considering most of Singapore is really clean it was a strange thing to see.

There was quite a bit of park left to cover and we were draining quickly now, and it was getting later in the evening. We eventually reached the visitor center and grabbed some cold beverages (the last water bottle we had was warm now). We were about 35 minutes from the next bus pick up and maybe a little over an hour from sunset and ready to go home. We could either walk back to the front of the park and wait, or walk to the dam (which was much closer) and wait longer, or walk a little further and try to signal an Uber.

As I said before, we couldn't get a signal for Uber way out where we were, but we could get one if we dropped the pin a little further past the bridge. I suggested dropping the pin further out, then calling the driver to tell him where we were, since it would be a lot easier and faster for him to come to us, but Jess thought we should make an effort to get a little closer to the pin point.

So we started walking. Across the street there was a small park with benches along the water, and we walked across the dam/bridge over the water. We got to a town on the other side which is probably the most bizarre place we've come across in all of Singapore. The entire town was men. Half the men wore sarongs, and they all stared at me/us like they were confused by our presence. I was starting to think we were in a men only town, but I didn't feel unsafe, just equally confused and weirded out.

There were a ton of stray dogs, and not once, not twice, but three times we saw people getting haircuts on the side of the road. This area was much more undeveloped than the big city we're staying in and there was nothing and no one near by to help us get transportation. We had one failed attempt at an Uber (who cancelled after accepting), and then trouble getting the next driver to actually find us. Thankfully after about a 2 mile walk and the hundredth stray dog that Jess thought was going to give us rabies just by looking at us, the driver finally found us just before sunset.

We had a nice relaxing drive home, then took nice relaxing showers, then went out for some sexy Thai food and a not so warm evening.

River Cruise

Wow, so it's been a while. Things have become fairly routine (and we've gotten really tired of the heat and having so many options {who would have thought that would be a problem??} for food), so we haven't had that many interesting stories. I'll post a general recap in a couple posts, but first two posts from the weekend.

Saturday we took it easy. Made breakfast, played video games, watched tv, and spent about two hours at the pool. We've started cooking lots of frozen foods because going out for every meal has become a real chore. Then we decided to go on the night time River Cruise with Laser Show.

The cruise leaves out of Clark Quay and that place is packed at night/on the weekends! We got in line to purchase tickets for the second of the two laser shows and became very nervous about the amount of people shoving their way through the line for the boat that was loading at that time. The boat would leave at 9p, and the man told us to come back at 8:45.

We went and had thai for dinner just a few doors down, nothing to write home about! Then we waited a very long time to get someone's attention for the check. A server came by and handed a bill to the table next to us, and I was positive it was ours, but we continued to wait. Finally Jess asked another server for the check, and a few minutes later the original server came by and grabbed the bill off the table next to us and handed it to Jess. That's fairly typical of our customer service experiences here... that specifically was a first and only, but it's mostly inattentive.

We still had about half an hour before departure, but we went ahead to line up because we were really nervous about the crowds. We got there and got the first spot in line and made sure we were as close as possible to the rope because people kept cutting through. No respect for the queue!

Jess jumped out of line around 8:45 to grab our drinks that came with our tickets (Shanghai Sling - a bottled version of a Singapore Sling, and pretty tasty!). We watched in amazement as one large tour group after another very inefficiently "lined up" and hustled down to the boats. These groups of people were very bad at following simple instructions like "line up in line B".

Finally it was our turn and we got the first seats on the back of the boat and spread out (for good reason!! By the middle of the ride we had people practically sitting on our laps). We sat for a while and people watched (mostly the English family next to us - you'll hear them in the video) and then took off a few minutes later.

This is 40 minutes of video cut down and sped up to ~3 minutes.

The ride was fairly uneventful, and the laser show was just okay, but the weather was perfect so it was worth it. Apparently the show is much better from the viewpoint of Marina Bay Sands, but I imagine it's still nowhere near as good as a Disney show. They do the show at least twice every night though! Singapore loves a spectacle.

After the cruise we walked around Clark Quay for a bit and over to the bridge facing Marina Bay Sands, and walked the long way back to the apartment. There are under pass sidewalks throughout Clark Quay with murals, I especially liked the wall of cute little merlions doing water activities. Obviously I was a little obsessed with the rainbow bridge, and I didn't have a tripod with me so I couldn't get a great shot (not just of the bridge, but of anything). We had been wanting to take this walk, but it had been too hot every time we're out that way. The weather was actually fantastic this night, so we took advantage of it.

We walked through the MRT access under Suntec to get a few blocks across without having to take the overpasses. Turns out there are even more shops and eating spots underground. This place is so weird.

Acoustics!