singapore

we just got back from singapore (sat 7th), where we spent 1 night in the grand central hotel (good location, quality was like an ageing travelodge but the pool was nice and clean), and 2 nights in uncle heng’s/derrick’s condo.

again, i’m feeling tired and lazy so i think i’ll list things briefly…

  • orchard rd: the famousest of shopping districts and where our hotel was. amazing array of malls/dept stores which seemed very nice with a huge range of clothes. i was surprised at the amount of boutique style or more unusual stuff there was, including lots of stuff that i would have looked at more closely and purchased had i had time/money and most importantly space on the boat to keep. anthe and fiona, if ur reading this before we get back, we bought stuff for you… =)
  • sentosa: the famousest of resort islands, Auntie Esther took a half day on Thur to take us there. we went on the skytower, which was like a big donut that people got into and it rose up into the air to get a view of Singapore. It was cool but i spent too long taking movies and used up most of my memory card!
  • cheng ho chinese junk trip: as in a chinese boat trip. the boat was decorated like an old chinese junk, like the ones the commander of the Chinese Imperial fleet, Admiral Cheng Ho, was in charge of in the 1400s. We cruised around Sentosa and other islands, drank tea and ate biscuits (very nice semi-sweet lemon sandwich ones!) and stopped off at Kusu Island aka Turtle Island. I tried vainly (also perhaps in vain) to get rid of my strap tan lines by wearing a strapless top and managed to burn all the bits that were previously white – while the tanned bits just got more tanned. i’m still a bit red now so i’m still waiting to find out if i will have to keep my scarf wrapped around me at angela’s wedding…
  • zouk: my cousins derrick and vernon took me out clubbing to zouk, along with their girlfriends cheryl and …. i’m afraid i can;t remember exactly and definitely don’t know how to spell vernon’s girlfriend’s name…sorry, i blame the ak47 which i was force fed (a cocktail apparently containing 7 different spirits + ice). the dj was from germany and i have also forgotten his name, but it was trance music and pretty good. so good in fact that we stayed until nearly 5am, dancing till the end. i also tried chival regal whisky with green tea (the sweetened kinf in cans i think) which was nice when it wasn’t too strong. everyone i met was really nice, but they liked necking their spirits a lot, and making everyone else drink up, and i’m only used to necking beer! but i can confirm that frisbee love can be felt with a shared RIP cocktail =)
  • went to the largest temple in singapore in the bishan district…it was huge and much cleaner than malaysian temples. not much else to say about it.
  • raffle’s hotel: where the invented the singapore sling. we went there only a few hours after i got back from zouk tho, so we didn’t order a cocktail.

so overall, singapore was clean and well maintained – the opposite of malaysia where many old buildings – and not so old buildings – are not well kept, and look shabby and dirty. even very old / historical buildings are often in a state of disrepair. in cotrast, the singapore museum which was housed in a colonial building looked brand spanking new – and it was white so would show any dirt. but the food is better in malaysia and i think malaysia’s a bit friendlier and a more interesting place to go.

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tropical fruit farm

im feeling a bit lazy, but want to type this before i forget it all so i’ll be brief.

fun khoon took us to the tropical fruit farm today (2 apr), where our guide talked us (a group of less than 10) thru lots of fruit trees. it was v hot as we got there at about 10.30 after a late start. (mum and i stayed at james’ last night – more abotu that later.)

tasting notes :

  • there are loads of species of banana although you only get about 10 varieties in the shops. we saw monkey bananas which aren’t good to eat (small and have bigger black seeds inside) but are grown ornamentally for the flowers. candle bananas are so called because if you hang a bunch up on a hook, they will drop off like candles (i’ve not seen candles drop though…)
  • pineapple plants only give one fruit at a time as the fruit comes from only 1 point in the plant
  • mace is a a red substance between the nutmeg seed and the fruit
  • water apples come in 3 varieties although the white one (which we tried straight form the tree – like a mini white translucent pear and tasted like a watery pear/apple, weak flavour) is not commercially viable
  • star apples are plain spherical green fruit like an apple, but when cut in two the veins (?) make the shape of a star
  • some species of ginger are grown ornamentally – called lobster claws and bird of paridise flowers
  • durian and mangosteen are seasonal – june-july time. we saw lots of durian trees on the road and they had clmps of flowers, and some had mini durians! so cute!

the guide told us a lot about the fruits although i cant recall it all now! some of the fruit were pretty much extinct he said, as they are being destroyed by property developers. he said this of mimosa as well, the leaves that ‘close’ when you touch them.

foooood!

this is the main attraction/talking point/pass time of malaysia – or at least the malaysia i know. everyone meets up for food. cafes seem to be busy at all hours of the day. where brits go out and drink 10 pints on a friday, my family here tend to just eat 10x a day.

today, my auntie is only eating vegetarian food as it’s the 15th (i thnk) of the lunar month, and she does this on ths day each month for religious (buddhist) reasons. good for me, as i had a really nice meal this evening – one of the best so far. had: sticky rice with chinese mushrooms/carrots; organic greens from the garden; some kind of greens that are like leek flowers, but i don’t think are; green beans and sticky potato dumpling type things with a chilli sauce. yum. earlier, we went to Uncle Yoke’s shrine as mum hadn’t been yet. whike we were there, we bought some curry puffs, savoury yam cakes & pumpkin cakes – all veggie as they only have veggie food there.

earlier on we also had ais kacang at queensbay and earlier still went to the tropical fruit farm and ate about a kilo of fruit each… yum =)

so i have feasted today, and haven’t eaten a single mouthful of tofu. result!

snorkelling at pulau payar + hiking

on friday we took it quite easy, watched tv, Uncle Tin and Isabelle came over in the afternoon. in the later afternoon, Fun Khoon took mum and i on a shortish hile at the youth park up the hill. i think it took about 40 mins to go up, mostly sloping paths or steep steps. one bit was climbing a steep incline with a rope.

it was incredibly hot and humid with no breeze. i was on the brink of feeling faint with overheating, as the exercise alone was not too much, it was just my body temperature. at the top there was a kind of kitchen where you could help yourself to tea / boiled water. once we cooled off, there were exercise machines ( for situps, biceps etc) which we had a go on, and took in the view of other hills and Georgetown. on the hike, we saw lots of people hiking for fitness and a whole family of ‘normal’ monkeys.

saturday we left at just after 7am to get the ferry to langkawi coral/pulau payar withUncle Meng, Catalina and Noel. it was a 2 hour ferry trip to this diving platform, just off pulau payar. we had a funny guide who kept making jokes, clearly the same every time! we snorkelled a bit straight away, along with everyone else so it was pretty busy! there were lots of fish though, and Noel got bitten!

At one point, mum, Catalina and i were near the platform and i suddenly noticed what seemed like a huge barracuda right behind us. it was over 1m long and rather mean looking. i didn’t show the others in case they panicked as this wasn’t that long since we got going. we saw it from the platform a bit later, and Uncle Meng said they are friendly towards humans!

After lunch we went on a little boat to the shore, where baby sharks are usually to be found. we saw 2 of them from the jetty, happily swimming together in opposing figure of 8s, alongside lots of snorkellers. there wasn’t much to do here so we left after us kids had a quick dip.

Later, mum and i swam from the platform to shore. it wasn’t intentional as mum thought it looked too far, but we ended up so close to shore that we thought we might as well go ashore. the sand was fine and white, with scattered coral and shells.

while snorkelling, mum pointed out some white sand-coloured fish that were in a pair, near the ground, kind of sitting/floating near a kind of cove made in the sand. they were well camoflaged and seemed to be quite at home together, maybe the cove was their house!!

other highlights of the marine life were:

  • blue coral
  • tiny back fish with a bright blue bit on their head, lingering under the coral
  • yellow and black angler (or is it angel?) fish
  • colourful iridescent fish – possibly clown fish
  • very pointy stick-like fish that lingered near the surface
  • fish that camoflaged with the beige hard coral and seemed to be eating off of it
  • i think i saw the antenna of a lobster hidden in the coral

later on, mum sat on the step and fed bread to the fish. they came right over and ate it from her hand – it was amazing! they were flapping around, coming out of the water! also amazing was the fact that the fish were constantly fed but still always they rushed to the food.

it was disappointing that the water near the platform was quite cloudy, esp after lunch. i thought it was the excess of bread, but Uncle Meng disagreed. he said that he realised that it was the spring tides so would be worst fro visibility due to all the tidal motion – plus the recent rain. closer to the beach the water was much clearer though so i think the bread also had something to do with it.

with all the activity, i found myself hungry at various points through the day. this was quite a strange feeling, as i’ve only been hungry once or twice throughout the whole holiday! bring on the exercise, then i can eat more… ;-)