Saturday, November 24, 2012

It's been two weeks! Remember me?

It seems like ages and it is.
We had company for 4 days. John and Dixie, ski buddies from Silver Star, who live in Brockville, retired teacher and retired nurse. Every two years they take a big trip. To SE Asia. This year Vietnam and Bali . They factored in a visit to us in between. They had been to Singapore before and had seen a lot of the sights.

So I took them to the recently opened Garden By The Bay. It really is phenomenal. The government wanted to have, available to anyone, an oasis of green in the heart of the city. So free to all, an amazing garden; plants, trees, outdoor art from all over the world. Then you pay to go in two greenhouses- HUGE greenhouses- one plants and flowers from countries with similar climate; Mexico, Africa, Central America. Beautiful specimens. And a cloud garden, misted, with a 5 story waterfall, and plants that grow in heavy jungle environment. It is breathtaking. Singapore really does "big" well. It is wonderful.

We went to The Affordable Art Fair. Artists, and art galleries, from around the world, come and show art between $100 and $10,000. A huge pavilion showed thousands of pieces of  just amazing art. So varied, so creative, so good, and so many. I wish that I were rich so I could buy some of the incredible art. But then we would have to buy some empty walls to display it. Hmmm......

Tim and I then went to Nikoi for 5 days. Nikoi Island is in the South China Sea, off the east coast of Bintam, which is an island just east of Singapore. By the way, I thought Singapore was the tip of the Malaysian Peninsula, but it is an island at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula. OOPS. I just learned that.

Gordie Wade recommended we look into Nikoi. He had heard about it when he was travelling to Singapore on business. It is only 5 years old. Some business men bought this island and built a weekend getaway from Singapore. It has morphed in to a very select hotel resort.

A small island, surrounded by fine white coral powder sand. A hill in the middle that is heavy jungle, and little villas dotted along the shore. It is like very fancy camping. Your own "cabin" in the woods, down a sand path in the jungle. A house, with a ground floor open living space, open walls to the views, and upstairs a bedroom with open walls. A mosquito net keeps you from being eaten alive. Actually I didn't get one bite the 4 days there. They are very careful about the mosquitoes, but not with fogging. They plant lemon grass along all the paths, light coils under our beds at night. We used bug juice in the evening for dinner.

They offer prescribed meals at prescribed times. They post the menu the day before, and ask if any problems with what is being served. Prawns, red snapper, tenderloin, chicken. Not fine dining, but good food, fresh, and determined by what is fresh and available at the market. We were very happy with the food. Nice small servings, and a delicious dessert with lunch and dinner. They have a dining area for adults, and a dining area for families with kids. And that is a good thing!

They are making the smallest footprint possible. The buildings are built of wood washed up on the shore. They collect their rain water, compost waste, no AC but ceiling fans, torches to light the paths at night, no tv or phones.

But this  makes no sense to me. We were 1' from the equator and yet the sea water was cooler, and the air temp more moderate than here in Singapore. Go figure! I was lucky, it was overcast ( we are in monsoon season) because I forgot my sunglasses. And we had a ripper of a storm go through as we were packing out of our cabin. It passed through and that is a good thing because we had a boat ride to get home just hours later.

At mealtime, they have swept the dining room floor (beautiful white sand) into gorgeous designs. The toilet is in the middle of the bathroom, and the tp hangs by chains from the ceiling! In front of our cabin, we had a giant sand lawn with a bed on a swing, a big lounger under a shade grass roof, and steps to the ocean. It really was lovely. Very different to any other paradise we have visited here. We are collecting paradises like hockey cards!?

We took a hike to the back of the island (to another bar and several pools) and took a path over the hill. Very steep, wet and slippery in sandals. But I felt like Jane looking for my Tarzan. HA There are resident lizards. I think they are called monitor lizards. We had sightings of some about 12-18" long. And then one day I stepped out of our cabin to be staring at the big daddy. I do not exaggerate- 6 feet long. He kindly posed for a picture, (I had to run back for my phone) and then he slithered off in to the jungle. Whooppee.

Tim was fascinated talking to two fellows who work there. One guy is studying the mosquitoes, tracking what genus, where they feed, where their habitat, to deal with them naturally. He puts empty coconut with some water in them to collect larvae to study them. The another guy, the handyman, who has to fix things that need fixing without the support of the DIY store down the road.

 Garden By The Bay in the greenhouse. Singapore does a lot of interactive stuff with kids- a tree filled with colourful birds
Outdoor "living trees" These will eventually be filled with vines, they are just beginning to be covered. They are huge - 50' high?
The Affordable Art Fair. Dixie and I being framed.
A notice on the ferry to Bintam. NO JOSTLING!!!!
 Our bathroom - note the tp on a chain, and buddha watching over you when you are in the bathroom!
 Our bed, with a ceiling fan inside our net. Just perfect. Who needs AC?
 One of the pools.The islands are made up of very recent, soft round rocks. Tim says they are recent, not ice age like our Canadian rocks.
Big Daddy Monitor Lizard, impatient with my scurrying to get the camera, and took off a second too soon.

I am going on, and not beginning to do justice to this holiday. It was a wonderful experience, and I hope to talk the kids into a few days there when they come in January. It is truly unique. Thank you Gordie for the great recommendation.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

photos first- oops!

Well, I put the photos in first and now I can't write anything above here, to explain them. So here goes
Singapore has many delights. One is that we need no screens. Our sliding door open 7 feet each, and it is like an arch between rooms, the LR and the deck, the DR and the deck. It really is lovely. One thing is though, that when you travel you have to remember bug juice. We are in the tropics, but in Singapore they fog for mosquitoes. Every Tuesday! No bugs. Rarely frogs, crickets, worms, butterflies, moths, and of course mosquitoes. They fog to prevent dengue fever, but unfortunately much else is fogged too.
But the little geckos survive. That is a gecko on our LR wall. We live on the 23rd floor! I can hope he is here because the fog does not come up this high. Adventurous little geckos! He is about 6" tip to tail. I always jump, but it is because they are unexpected, and they dart. Like seeing mice.

Five photos of Little India. It is Diwali now. (Also called DeePAvali) Eight days of celebration. It is a Hindu and Jain Festival. Kind of like New Years. Festival of Lights. They celebrate their rich culture and history, of the stories of Ramayana, Lord Rahmen, Lord Krishna, Lukshima, Good over Evil, Light over Darkness, Wisdom over Ignorance. They have many traditions: a ritual bath before sunrise, families together, exchanging sweets, decorating their house with light, candles, mandalas of coloured rice. The one time of the year that firecrackers are allowed in Singapore. Those yellow bottles
are cow's urine! You buy it (?) and sprinkle it around your house(!?). Remember cows are holy. (I do not have India on the top of my list of places to visit. I just can't get my head around cow paddies everywhere, in the Indian heat!)

We have company coming this week. John and Dixie Logie. They are ski buddies that we met at Silver Star. They live in Brockville. They come next Thursday, having been in Vietnam for two weeks. After four days with us, they are going to Bali for two weeks. It is exciting.

We leave (a day before the Logies leave- they will have to find their way around for their last day) Monday for Nikoi, Indonesia. Gordie Wade said a buddy of his who travelled here a lot, said it was super. It sure looks great. A private island!!  We take a one hour ferry from Sg to Batam, Indonesia, then they pick you up and we go another hour in their boat to get to the island. It is monsoon season and windy. I hope I remember to take along my Gravol!

Time is flying. It is November, and Sg is hyping up for Christmas. It just doesn't make sense in this heat, to see Christmas trees, and hear Christmas music. OMG The arrangements of the old favourites! Where did they find them. There sure is no Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It is all electric and kitchy.

I went to hear Handel's Messiah last week. It was wonderful The orchestra is good, the soloists were good ( they had a counter-tenor singing the alto solos). I have played it at least a million times (?!) and recorded it many times, but had never gone. I just loved it. Some (not many) stood for the Hallelulia
Chorus. How British! I wonder if they do Messiah every year. It is almost cult in TO. The TSO plays it 5 times a week, with sing along performances. The people in the audience brings their score, and sing along with the choruses. I saw a few scores in the audience. We stood for the chorus, and didn't Tim start to singalong !!!! OMG. I just about croaked. Him singing anything is VERY sketchy, but in the concert hall? alone? I died.

From the grave, I sign off.

Monday, November 5, 2012

sweet nothings

Well, I just downloaded some photos so I will tack them on.
I said sweet nothings because I have not flown off to any paradise.

We just had 5 days off. We. HA. Tim! But we didn't go anywhere. Tim was to go diving and get his certificate (a certification for life, no more renewing) It didn't work out. I was planning on going  somewhere myself. But I took my passport in to get a new one. No passport- no out of the country! I am going through pages like you wouldn't believe. Most trips take a visa and they take a page. Although my passport does not expire til June 2015, I will run out of pages within months. So I went down, turned in my passport and will get a 48 page one.

The number of times I have had to give out my passport number, I wonder how I will handle that. Of course I am also identified everywhere with my dependant's pass, and with my thumb prints. Big brother SG has you coming and going. Literally!

I set myself up on the patio to write this blog. A storm is coming in. Thunder that rolls for 7 seconds (I'm counting) and lightening reflecting off all the high rise buildings. But I chickened out. My computer was wiggling in the wind. I decided to set up back in the LR and just watch it from inside. This seems to be one of those storms that is always on our weather forecast for Singapore. WoW here comes the rain.

I have started some tomato plants. And basil. I tried cilantro but it didn't take. Nor did my datura seeds. I really wanted datura. My friend Sylvie had some at her poolside. The flower comes out at night and is very perfumed. On our balcony they would be gorgeous. But I will have to settle for gardenias and jasmine. IF I can get them to keep flowering.

I have waxed on about the BBC. I love the world news. Hearing about the Middle East, Africa, Europe. Not all USA. A documentary on "hair" How important the dead cells we call hair are. To lose it is immense- chemo, slavery, adulterers, collaborators in the War. The US Air Force shaves the heads of their recruits, to make them all equal, to shed their individuality, - what they call "Break and Build". Yuck! I heard a one hour tale with Thomas Kinneally and Michael Igniateff on "guilt". Humans are unique in feeling guilt. How the American Political System is stripped of guilt, because there is no direct contact, and so you can say anything, true or not, and not feel guilt. I listen to their foreign correspondents give a 2 minute little documentary. I read a book of a collection of these reports. Now I listen to some in real time. I love it! Well these days it is all US election. Very interesting coverage, but it makes me realize how the US directly affects the rest of the world.

We went to the Botanic Gardens on the weekend. 97 acres in the heard of Singapore, beautifully landscaped with trees, plants, butterflies (I guess they don't fog there). Orchids, orchids orchids.

 Chopin playing at the top of the hill. At the bottom you see the outdoor concert hall for the SSO.

 My tomato plants- I have three pots like this. Maybe some will make it through. They sure got a drenching in this rain.
Probably the last we see of the basil. They are floating in water and have been hammered by the rain., and are lying limp against the pot's edge.
Singapore tv news had footage of drivers receiving speeding tickets! Can you imagine that at home? You'd run out of time and tape. Right up there with the signs posted in the community to report a stolen bicycle- any witnesses?  We have a sign in our lobby reporting vandalism, and people with information are encouraged to report to the office, and their identity will be held confidential. Rats, come forward! A penalty for someone was 12 years in jail and 12 stokes of the cane!

Ah Singapore!