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… ;-)

more sights: war museum, aquarium, snake temple…

this afternoon Fun Khoon took me sightseeing again. it was v hot & humid so we decided against the tropical fruit farm.

war museum

this was an outdoor museum so  got eaten alive again by mozzys. i need DEET! none of this pansy citronella! the museum was interesting as it was all old buildings from ww2. like ammo stores, anti aircraft guns in concrete recesses, soldiers’ quarters, kitchens, sickbay etc. there was a bit of info and i learnt that Penang was surrendered by the British to the Japanese 10 days after the first Japanese arrived, and not a single Japanese soldier was killed.there was some info on the Japanese occupation, showing how brutal they were towards the POWS. there were signs with military jargon/slang, and one that i didnt know befre was that blimey comes from gorblimey which comes from God blind me!

Aquarium

Fairly standard small aquarium, with lots of medium sized tanks. then at the end, you go into a room like a cinema, and the screen is a giant tank, floor to ceiling, wall to wall! some of the fish inside (i think they were called jewfish) were humungous – at leat 1m long and their heads larger than a human head – or at least similar!!!

then at the end they had turtles in (rather small) tanks outside. the adults looked cramped, but the babies were sooooo cute – the size of terrapins. beautiful! when they came up for air u could see their nostrils flaring, i love them so much!!!!

snake temple

at the snake temple there is a tree which has venomous snakes in it, so u could go up and get yourself hurt if you were silly enough. some were v small though, and hard to see as they were green and camo’d with the leaves.

there was also a kind of snake equivalent of an aquarium. saw a royal ball python who looked just like scar (for those who know/knew him!). saw some teeny tiny snakys, and some massive ones. they were beautiful. the cobra was a bit scary!

just nearby the snake temple there’s another buddhist temple where there’s a shrine to Uncle Yoke. we went to say a prayer for him and to light incense for him there. the temple complex is actually vegetarian, so no meat is allowed to be offered. any meat offerings for him have to be given elsewhere so that he doesn’t go without meat!

the hitch hikers guide is starting on tv now so i’m going……………………………..x

catch up

so a quick recap.

first few days, did shopping, sitting around etc. Met Limmy on Monday inPrangin Mall.

then went to Sungai Petani on Tue for 2 nights to stay with Uncle Meng’s family. did some more shopping in SP, i went swimming while mum and Aunty Mary went to gym on the second day, at a rather swish sports centre that was more like a holiday report but in the middle of a residential area. i think swimming was the first time up until this point that i really saw the sun, except out the window.On Wed eve we went to the Park Royal hotel to see live music…it was unlike anything I’ve seen before! There was a Malaysian group and n Indonesian group and they played Malay and Chinese songs plus some American, and British songs which were mainly “oldies” but a few more recent ones. The best one was a take on 4 Non-Blondes’ “What’s going on” – the singer really loved singingit.

Fri – went to market and then in eve went to Sushi King for dinner, just mum and me. It was about RM40 (or was it 50?) for both of us – well under a tenner as it’s RM6.5=GBP1. It was fun as it had a conveyor belt!

Sat – the aforementioned Cheng Beng.

Sunday 25th went with Uncle Ping and his family to lunch, and then he took us sightseeing for a bit. We went to the reclining buddha temple and to Khoo Kongsi, a clan house that was very ornate & somehow mum and I had never been before. The point of a clan house was to provide support to members of that family and to give them a temple where they can prey for their ancestors – important as they were new settlers from China so their ancestors were not nearby. Everything was beautifully decorated and I have lots ofphotos that tell the story better but they arent online yet :(

Mon 26th – I am 27. Mum, Fun Khoon and i go to Pulau Jerejek, a tiny island that used to be where they sent lepers to and then a prison island. it only has 1 resort, which we stayed the night at. we went for a walk along the coast where we saw old colonoal admin buildings and the old jetty – all built 1911. most interesting was seeing a little snake, monkeys, butterflies, dragonflies and fish.

jerejak is partly an adventure holiday place as the beach is not great. Fun Khoon and i went on the climbing wall – our arms nearly dropped off half way up because we werent using our legs enough! a schoolboy error, i believe. if they told us to use our legs at the start we would have made it to the top i think, but we both got about 3/4 of the way up. my conclusionis that despite what many metos have told me, climbing is not 4 me. apparently, one of the staff could do the wall in 6 seconds!

after that i couldnt face a jungle trek i was so tired, so i went for a swim to cool down and stretch out my arms. i did lots of lengths of granny breaststroke cos i forgot my goggles!!!!

also did a bit of reading/sunbathing. it was funny cos u can hear the traffic from Penang and also see it whizzing along the road opposite.

each meal at the resport was buffet – a disaster because we dont have self control. good job i’m vegetarian and could only eat a few things! the ais kacang was pretty good as they had the proper machine where they shave it off from a giant ice cube.

that evening mum wasn’t feeling so good with a sore throat/cough. there wasnt much to do anyway, so she didnt miss out on anything by getting an early night. the next morning we went for a walk along the bike trail (couldnt find the hill trail) and i got eaten alive thanks to my all natural insect repellent. we got the 10.30 ferry back and Fun Khoon met us (he didnt stay overnight) and we went to the tropical spice garden. that was really good – like a botanical garden. we saw a bigger snake (cobra??), big butterflies, big iguanas, little cute frogs, etc etc. plus lots of cool plants of course. we had a drink at the cafe there, overlooking batu ferringhi which has a lovely clear view of the empty blue sea.

then went to Uncle Tin’s for a while. His place has so much stuff in it! We had a pandan drink that was yummy – i think it was cordial. after that we went to have fruit ais (like ais kacang with fruit apparently from the tropical fruit farm – altho we saw a van from thailand arrive…). There was a batik ‘factory’ and store there too.

Evening and we go to dinner with Uncle Meng & Aunty Mary at Equatorial Hotel with the view of Penang from the reataurant window. We saw Jerejak! They brought their own wine and wine glasses as the restaurant ones arent up to scratch! Starter and dessert was buffet, you just order your main course. The chef is French so it was European food. Salads / antipasti type stuff v good. Mum had lobster!

The big surprise for me (& mum!) came just after I got my plate of desserts…the waiters came out with a cake and sang happy bday in French! Ayor!The chocolate cake looked v yum. I had actually also had a yummy ice cream cake on Sat with the whole fam, so I have been spoilt =)

Today – Wed 28th
Fun Khoon and I went sightseeing this pm. Saw the marina (tiny), Penang Museum (interesting, lots of info and antiques/artefacts), State Art Gallery (1 room of Malaysian artists, some amateurish, some interesting, some very detailed – my faves were the birds and beetles), and lastly Penang Peranakan Mansion. This was a restored Chinese mansion. The only problem was not having a guide or any written info so I dont have much to say except that it was gorgeously done – although i have lots of photos which will go on picasa eventually.

Right, I think that is enough! I’ve caught up!