Saturday, May 26, 2012

eenie meenie mynie mo

Every time we go away we think, oh this is fantastic, this is where we will bring the kids. Alex, Heidi, and Elizabeth are coming to visit in January. Am I excited?
We hope to take them on an interesting side trip. Krabi was wonderful. But then so was Koh Phi Phi. Now added to the pot is Penang Island, and George Town and the Lone Pine Hotel..
It was fabulous. The hotel was small, 90 rooms, particularly small on a beach that had huge hotels. It reminded us of the beaches of Florida. Grainier sand, very built up, and touristy.
But our hotel reminded us of the Sherwood Inn in  Muskoka. Small, white, and it had an elegance. It was the first  hotel there dating to 1948, and then went through minor expansion and a beautiful redesign recently . The room was gorgeous, particularly the bathroom. And a tub on the balcony.  The lobby all open to the sea breeze.
I have never seen so many genuine smiles on service people. The food was fabulous, we were on first name basis with our servers. It was altogether great.
The spa was lovely. Even if the massage was a little light handed. I am becoming so fussy, eh?
We inquired about January and they have a 2 bedroom apartment that we could rent. More for the kids to do there at night, and lots of beach stuff, jet skis, paragliding, banana boat.
The night we went in to George Town was interesting. The English had been there and there is a colonial feel to the old architecture. Some of the same you see here in Singapore. White stucco houses with red tile roofs, and grand state buildings with columns and statues of men on horses.
We took a long cab ride to Little India, have to say much like Sg Little India. Same smells of spices, same raucous Bollywood music playing at full volume, same stuff in the stalls. We then went to a hawker place. It was good, very good food, but much like Sg. We are spoiled here.
George Town has been designated  a heritage site by UNESCO. That means the whole city is to preserve it's architectural heritage. Great idea but I am not sure where the financing would come from. We had a good meal and a cab ride home. All of it was quite a distance away along a twisting coastal road along the Andaman Sea. A beautiful drive.
Right outside our hotel was a night market. We were warned about thievery. Motorbikes ride along and grab your bag off your shoulder. We are spoiled in Sg with the comforting level of safety.
It is so easy to get to George Town, a 9:30 departure from Sg and lunch at the hotel. Can't beat that.  And our weekend was $1000, hotel, food, flight, 3 days-two nights!
The hotel has been bought by The Eastern and Oriental Hotel, which is a grand old railroad hotel in downtown George Town. It has to do with the Orient Express. Apparently you can take a train from George Town to Bangkok, I think, on the Orient Express. An overnight trip. Now that I want to check out!

our balcony, the beach, our (Neilson Milk Chocolate) beach boy (toothless), two happy campers, the elegant hotel, and a sign in the Penang Airport!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I sit on the day bed on the balcony of our hotel room, in Penang. When we set off this morning from Singapore I had no idea where we were going. Just another beach holiday! Tim had arranged it. In fact I didn't know we were going anywhere until last night. Packing is a no brainer. Bathing suit, cove-up, sandals, and whatever you wear on the plane. Life is very tough. Speaking of which, with all this I am lonely. This is a one way conversation. I am telling you what I am up to, but I don't hear from you. I would love to. Every little boring detail. As wonderful as this adventure is, it is not home, with my friends, catching up on your lives. So....... We flew in to Penang, an island, and a city, an hour north of Singapore in Maylasia. We are at a hotel on the beach, outside the city of Georgetown. It is a very different place to what we have experienced in Thailand. It feels more like home, like Florida or Caribbean. We can't quite figure why. One, it is not jungle. We are in a hotel off the beach road here. Pines and bamboo and the roll of the ocean waves. We are on the Andaman Sea again. The hotel is the rebuild of an old hotel The Lone Pine Tree. Has a real Malaysian ring doesn't it? And they aren't even pine trees. They look like pine but are something that sounds like casherengia or something. Look like th Cypress of the south Florida or Caribbean. Lunch by the pool and ocean, we had "pine needles" on our table. The food was excellent. I had an interesting salad. Tomatoes, cucumber, peanuts and batter-fried tiny anchovies. Not salty because they are so small, like 2 cms. They were like fresh bacon bits. Delicious! There is a photo of the original hotel in 1953, and it has been renoed or rebuilt, and it is lovely. Our room, with a balcony facing west to the rolling waves of the Andaman Sea. I am tucked away in the shade on the balcony lolling on a day bed. Tim naps. There balcony has shutters that slide long the balcony, to keep you in the shade. There is a tub, concrete, on the balcony! Guess who is having a tub under the starsbbeforembed tonight! The sand on the beach is more like Muskoka sand, I would guess from crushed rock, not the white powder of the Thai sand, crushed shell. There is a beach boy, a guy about eighty, toothless, the color of a Neilson's milk chocolate bar, with whom you check about swimming. The waves are big, meaning the breeze is lovely. No water sports though. And he lets you know the status of jelly fish on the beach. We will not be swimming in the Sea, although the water is warm. It is cloudy because of the wind. And the waves are big, like 3-4 feet. But oh, that lucious sound of the roll of the waves on the beach. We are going to go in to Georgetown tonight. Apparently there is a world heritage site. Have to google what it is. And apparently the food is fantastic. Hawkers. Tim has awakened so off we go. More to tell next time. Just love the idea of sitting here connected to the Internet, on the beach in Malaysia!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Oops how could I forget the Great Wall?

Saw the Great Wall. And yet I found it is something you want to see but need only see once in your life. I had seen it in 1978. It is amazing- 5,000 miles long, built by hand, visible from space, and over gorgeous mountain ranges. Now you can hike it and stay in private houses long the way!
We visited a hutong, an old district like was in the "old China". Met the matriarch of the household. 5 generations have lived there, she now with her two sons, 2 daughters-in-law and one grandchild. But that granddaughter when she marries will live with her husband's family so it will leave the family after 7 generations.
Not wanting to be a cynic, I have to say some things. That hutong was not like what was there in 1978. What I saw was abject poverty and slum. What we saw had been fixed up by the government and was worth many millions of $. They want us to think it wasn't so bad in the old times. I saw the old times. It was awful. Also Jerry said Mao was good for the country, brought it out of poverty. It was his wife and the Gang of Four that were terrible. Well, that is what they are taught now, because they still venerate Mao and can't say he was bad. But he was. Interesting that Jerry would say nothing that would not be "party line" but our guide for the day in Xi'an was more open about her thoughts. It was fascinating to talk with her. She is an only child, only daughter , and when marries will leave living with her parents and grandparents. A big decision for her. Jerry is a second son, from Harbin, way north east ("Ice City") and had to go to Beijing and make his own way. Brother #1 stays to live with parents and looks after them.

China is an amazing country. The Warriors discovered some oxide treatment to preserve the swords in the graves. The Americans and Germans think they discovered this process in 1978. The Chinese did 2200 years ago! It is a huge country. Beautiful topography. Gorgeous forests and agricultural areas. But the crowds, the traffic, the tourists, I don't know. hmmm
I hope I figure out how to attach some photos for you. I hope you will figure what they are.

Our first guests

It was so much fun to have guests here. It makes it feel a little more like this is home. My dear friend that I went home to surprise for St Pat's Day in Regina, Patty, came with her sister Trina, to visit her daughter Amy in Taiwan. Amy has been teaching English near Taipai. They were in Taiwan for 4 days and then came here to visit for 4 days. We had a ball. Then I joined them for 4 days in Beijing. What a whirlwind.
When I knew they were coming I started to "do" what I thought they might enjoy. Even did research! I find the tourist stuff is not user friendly. Directions, entrance and exit even. What we ended up doing was vert different from my list.
We did do the Night Safari, which I had sussed out. It really is terrific. But a labyrinth to get to , and find your way around. But the animals are very visible, very close, very healthy, very calm, and it is a great lesson in the importance of saving endangered species. I wrote about Tim's and my trip there, but we girls went later at night. The lighting was perfect to see the animals, and people were very good about not using flash. If only the non-english-speaking would be quieter so we could hear the guide. We were in a tram car, and got out half way to go to the bat caves. IN the bat caves. Big ones (2' wing span) little ones (6 " wing span) flying all around us. Not one got in our hair! Saw lion, tiger, hippo, giraffe, elephant, all in beautiful health. It really was terrific.
We did a day spa in Indonesia! Mother's Day we went to the ferry at 7 a.m., one hour later picked up at the ferry dock in Indonesia by the spa, and went for three treatments and lunch. Back to Singapore by 7 p.m.. Fantastic. We went to Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling. The hotel is gorgeous, old and every colonial. The drink is no where near as good as the buckets of Singapore Slings my neighbours made for our going away party, though. We went to Sentosa Island, a play park on a man made island off the shore of downtown Singapore. All man made. Universal Studio, water slides, resort hotels, trapeze (Amy did that) 4 D movie, python (I did that!), and all sorts of family fun stuff. It was stinking hot so we only stayed a few hours. The cable car ride over from a hill top in Singapore was amazing. The view, the engineering (it goes through THROUGH a building),  must be amazing at night.
We did the hawkers for dinner. At the beach that we look out at, there is a food court filled with "hawkers" food stalls, selling the most delicious food, satays, Indian, seafood, noodles, probably 50 stalls. The first night we were there in time to find a table. The next night it was later, so we just brought it home. It is so great to have such good food so close by. Not driving, walking distance is important.
We four girls then headed off  to Beijing. I had been before but in 1978, just a few years after Mao's death and the Gang of Four and the Cultural Revolution. So the China I saw was like the moon compared to now. Beijing is 20 million people. (What is the population of Canada?) and it takes 1 1/2 hours to get anywhere, through dense traffic,along 16 lane STREETS, and past constant high density apartment buildings. The city is vast.  Our guide Jerry met us at the airport, and we had him and a driver and a van, for the 4 of us for our stay there. Couldn't have done so much in so fe days any other way. A decent hotel, and busy busy days.
First day lots of walking Tianemen Square, Forbidden City, vast public spaces. When I was there it was empty but for soldiers in olive green. We all have the image of the young man standing up to the tank. When we were there it was filled with tourists. Thousands- many Chinese, many northern Chinese (that Tibetan Mongolian look). 80% of the tourists in China are nationals. All in huge tour groups, wearing matching baseball caps following the tour guide with a flag. They were everywhere. I could go on about the Square and the Forbidden City, I was jotting down facts in the van from our guide. But I will spare you. The grounds surrounding the area are very beautifully landscaped now, (China is doing  a very conscious greening of the country, planting trees. Of course Mao said they were to be removed, they were bourgeoise, and people were given the job of denuding the country (effectively making much of it a dust bowl). The palace had no trees for security- could hide in the trees! The Forbidden Palace is huge. 99,999 rooms. One less that the celestial palace at 100,000. Each of two Emperor's bedrooms had 5 beds for security. Intruder never knew which bed he was in. Concubine (one of 3,000 chosen by lottery so no favourites) was rolled up in a silk rug like a spring roll and delivered to him every night. Of his many sons, the next in line would be by contest. Who was brightest, smartest. So there was no in-fighting and murders of next in line.
The Empress was a real bitch. Called Dragon Lady. Well Jerry didn't call her a bitch, but it seems that is what she was. Awful. But she built this Summer Palace which is about an hour out of the city. She might have abused her power and been very cruel to her subjects but she had amazing taste in gardening. The Summer Palace is lush with plantings, trees, flowers. She had a spring-fed lake built by hand, and a canal from the Forbidden Palace so she could travel by boat. The lake, being spring fed, supplies China with fresh water pearls. They are the leading fresh water pearl supplier in the world. There are covered walkways around the lake, all painted with beautiful scenes- pre photo albums, scenes recording their activities. She built a marble boat, huge, symbolic, that could not be sunk. It was already on bottom.
We went to a pearl factory after. We went to a silk factory. Actually I just think these are immense government supported retail that tourists are taken to. A short explanation and then in to the retail, where a staff attaches themselves to your hip and has the utmost pressure to get you to buy something. Some things are lovely, but much of it is cheap stuff for tourists. That really urked me about the tour. The pestering to find you something to buy. Lay off, go away, I'm just looking. But I did buy silk bedding. It cost a fortune. I figured the currency wrong. Tim flipped when he saw the amount. Oops. And I bought a silk jacket, not to wear but to hang on the wall. It too was way more than I thought it was. Oops again. Sorry Tim.
We were fed lunch in huge banquet hall restaurants filled with tourists. Many from Russia. The food could have been better. Sorry Patty, I really thought it could have been better. But the volume of tourists and the difficulty getting around, I can see the logic in what they do. One night at out hotel we went for dinner and  they said with hand signals no go away. We told Jerry so the next night he took me with him to tell them to serve us. They said no, no communication. Jerry said you have pictures of what you serve and you have a calculator. So he set us up to go eat there later. But we didn't want to go where we were not wanted. A very interesting feeling for a white wasp Canadian.
We went by the Olympic Bird's Nest, vast, the Bubble , vast and got stiffed by guys. We were let off by our driver to go to an overpass to take photos of the Olympic site, and at the top of the stairs of the overpass there were Minnie and Mickey Mouse. We thought how cute and got photos with them. Then they asked for money. We had none because we had only taken our cameras with us. They were not happy and followed us to our driver when the van came to pick us up. And got paid!
We got stiffed in the Beijing Airport too. We went to Xi'an for the day ( a two hour flight) to see the warriors. We didn't have any baggage because we were to be back that night. This "very nice fellow" came to help us check in at the Chinese kiosk. We thought how nice. Then he asked for money. There were airline personnel 3 feet away to help those at the kiosks! WE ended up giving him some money. Then watched him go up to other suckers within seconds!
The terra cotta warriors in Xi'an were breathtaking. The emperor wanted to be protected in his afterlife so he had 700,000 workers take 38 years to make 8,000 terra cotta life size soldiers. And horses. And weapons. And chariots. They were discovered in 1978 by a farmer digging for a well. The museum is amazing. The statues gorgeous. EVERY one is different. Different face, different build, different suit of armour. Each one unique! AMAZING! Displayed wonderfully, some as found in pieces, some restored as they would have been. It was very moving. Really seeing history.
The flight over to Xi'an was beautiful. Mountains outside Beijing, then a dramatic line where the desert started, then a line where the mountains started again. The terraced hills, and agriculture of the region was beautiful. It was a huge day though. A 4:00 start and bcd to the hotel at 1:30 a.m.
I will post some photos separately.
So much.
Good night all.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Jane charms a 6 foot PYTHON!!!!!!!

Click this site to see me holding  a python. 
Folks, I feel it is important to regularly move outside your comfort box.
So I did that yesterday.
Check it out!!!!


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sitting in the marina

Sitting in the cafe of a very posh marina awaiting our transfer to our hotel on the island of Koh Phi Phi. It is a rainy day, and if too rough we will take the commercial ferry, but so far looks like the speed boat will work. A one hour ride in the speed boat, two in the ferry. Out in to the Andaman Sea, which stretches over to India if we kept going! I just hope it is not rough water. One hour of rough water! Ugh. But before the weekend in Koh Phi Phi, I want to tell you about the Symphony. Tim was working Friday night so I looked to see what the symphony was doing. Night in Vienna. I thought an evening of Lehar and Strauss waltzes. I'm glad I looked at the program! Mozart Piano Concerto 14 and Bruckner 8. Not exactly lite fare!! So I zipped downtown and went. The orchestra is wonderful! The Bruckner calls for a huge cast of thousands. Well not thousands, but augmented numbers. Alphorns, all sorts of brass. and the strings, and of course the basses play their hearts out. For eighty 80 minutes! It is a marathon for the players and the listeners. Interesting, I expected many caucasian players. Not many at all, maybe half a dozen and several of them looked northern European, Baltic, whatever. To see Asians all playing these Alphorns, so not Asian instruments. But then why not. The hall is gorgeous. Sounds fantastic. Is so kind to the basses. I've rarely heard such a rich bass sound. It's beautiful all wood (Unlike Thomson Hall poured concrete) and beautiful. I loved it so much, I have joined "Friends of the Symphony". Why I am going to be friends with everybody!!! Friend of the Museums, Friend of the Symphony. I have to say I am enjoying being free to go where I want when I want. And such wonderful choices here. Something else to tell you about. Saturday night our date was to go to evening mass and dinner out downtown. So we went to a very old beautiful Carmelite Church downtown. At the end of the mass, I sitting on the aisle, had someone tap my shoulder. IT WAS SOMEONE I KNEW!!!! To bump into someone I know in a crowd just thrilled me. It was my physiotherapist! Actually it has happened now thre times. A friend/neighbour from in our building downtown, and a pilot I had met on the bus. Now in a city of five million it is thrilling. I think I am settling in!!!! It is getting lighter out and the rain has stopped. Off to Phi Phi!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


go to

momofuko/ singapore street food/top chef canada/ lunch bike delivery/IPS challenge

and see a FABULOUS article on Elizabeth's new business.
Also note the happy customer at the Legislature.
Am I bursting with pride?
I think so!

such opportunities I have

It is 10 p.m. I just got in from an evening yoga class. I've not done yoga in the evenings before. Oh my, do I sleep well after a practice. It is yin yoga, where you hold the pose for from 3-5 minutes. The longer you hold it the more intense it becomes. It then works the fascia and connective tissue. You are supposed to be a pretzel and RELAX in it. HA! I am still dealing with issues, but I sure feel better after yoga. Then I tighten up over night. But back at the yoga the next day. I have to remind myself the progress is slow but because I go so often, very little between classes. If I were going once or twice a week, I might see more progress class to class. As I try to go 4-5 times a week, the progress between classes is minimal. Whatever. It is a great thing to do, on my own, when Tim is busy. It is an easy walk away, and a wonderful studio. Although I sit here with a beer. I don't think yogis have a beer after a practice.
Tim is asleep. He leaves for Manilla at 1 a.m. !!!! tomorrow morning. So he has gone to nap 7-11:30 p.m. He will get home at 11 a.m. tomorrow! Yikes. It's a good thing he is Irish and a great napper. I could NEVER do that.
I have joined this FOM, Friends of the Museums, thank you Pauline. They have a lecture every Monday morning. I went last week to hear a talk on Daoism (Taoism), titled Explaining the Unexplainable. It was fabulous. Very scholarly, but if I can grab some of it, so much the better. There are three religions in Asia- confucianism, buddhism, and daoism. Daoism honours nature, family, ancestors, self and the environment. It is centred on the opposites, of yin, and yang, opposing forces in nature. They honour ancestors by burning significant things for that ancestor. I think that explains the little incinerators I see outside each of the buildings in our complex. On an ancestors "day" the family would burn significant things for the dead. She mentioned that today they might burn an iPad !!! ( I hope a broken one) but you are sharing something you love with the ancestor. She had much art to show, with the significance of the story told. I hope I can retain some of the information for when I see Asian art. But all those Chinese scrolls we all see. I could now see some of the content in a new light. Nature and man.
I don't think I am doing justice to what I learned. Just to say it is a fabulous opportunity for me.
I then went for lunch with a friend I have made. Laurie, is from Calgary, she reminds me if my mother-in-law Mary, whom I adored. She has lived in Scotland. Her husband is in "oil and gas". She drives here!!! But she had previous experience in Scotland, driving on the other side of the road. So she is going to "tootle me around" What fun. Drive to Malaysia for the day!
Tim and I are planning another getaway next week. Fly to Phuket, and transport ourselves to an island off the coast, in the Andaman Sea (again!) called Koh Phi Phi (ko pee pee). I will let you know if it is closer to paradise than Railay Beach was.
The yoga studio had a workshop on "feet and knees" that I attended. I learned all about what gives me so much trouble. I have booked an appointment with each of the workshop presenters. All my shoes are too small. In the heat, my feet are bigger. I will find out from him what to buy. (He doesn't think Birks are great - no support!). The knee guy is a physio and an osteopath. I am going to go to see if he can give "my issues" a label, and get me on a faster track to wellness. The way it's going is bloody slow. An interesting fact. Asians seem to be pigeon-toed and knock-kneed. There is a reason. Asians have very flat arches. Caucasians have high arches. So Asians walk with knock knees. But their feet are very flexible, because they pronate (roll on th step from outside heel to inside of foot). Caucasians have high arches, and do not roll in to the flat of the foot, have inflexible feet and walk outside  heavy. He went around the room and it was 100% accurate! Interesting! He also said you could identify the Singaporeans by the tan line from the flip-flops!
Well good night, my friends. I wonder if anyone is still out there. Let me know if you are!