Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I just checked my hits for last week. 174!!!!  65 one day. Yikes!!!!  Thanks guys, for staying in touch. It makes me feel great.

I was whinging to my sister about how lonely I was, how much I missed my kids, my family, and my friends. How I should not be sad because this really is amazing. But...

She wisely said, you want your cake and eat it too. You have this amazing adventure, and do not have the community of your friends. You have the one and not both. When you get home you will have your community.

I love that people still think about us so far away. Out of sight out of mind. But your hits tell me we are remembered.

Thank you all.

life is good

I am just kind of ruminating about the last year. My palette it gloriously colourful. Lots of great ups and few downs. Life is good good.

It has been over a year. I went to the doctor today and reported to her that I am without pain, and have been for one and a half months! I only whisper it, and every morning when I wake up, I kind of check my knees before getting out of bed. If they bend without pain that is a good thing. It is good.

I really think that the combination of modalities I am doing is what is working. Tim reminds me that I am very lucky to be here to access my activities that I think are helping.

I was sent to an ear/nose/throat doctor who gave me some things to sleep better. I had been told that the amount of sleep I was getting was not enough to allow the body to repair. He suggested sleeping on my side and doing a nasal rinse morning and night. I have to say I was very sceptical that it would do anything, but I am sleeping  longer and deeper. And I feel better.

I see an osteopath regularly. I didn't really know what an osteopath was. Well, you lie on a table and he digs his elbow in to your rump, and jabs you til you say until "uncle". Then he smiles and digs deeper. He sticks his fingers under my ribs and pulls at them. They actually move for him. He digs under my tailbone and pulls it. It moves too! All this with a smile. Very painful when he does it, but I feel better.

I go to massage downstairs here in the complex. A tiny Malaysian girl, Suzi, has been working on me for a year. I have to say it is harder for her to hurt me the way she used to. That means things are better, and I feel better.

I go to yoga as often as I can, a good week, four or five times. I have a program to do at home, or in the gym, or when travelling. No excuses for not doing yoga every day. But....

I try to either do yoga or  a program in the gym, or swim every day. And massage and osteo once a week. I have never had the luxury if all this egocentric activity. But I am without symptoms.

I went to my rheumatologist and reported that and expected her to say. "Lovely, the fibromyalgia seems to have gone" Instead she said "Lovely. Some patients do report a relief from symptoms for a period". So a month and a half is great and I am going for indefinite relief.

My sister Judy is coming next month with her husband and grand daughter Cammie. They will be here 3 weeks, going and coming from Singapore to Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. So I am looking at our trips for May and June.

This is where I pinch myself. I am looking at Maldives for early May. I have heard it is gorgeous, and after all, Royalty goes there for a getaway. Well, I looked it up on a map to find out where it is, and am putting together 5 days in May to the Maldives.

Kota Kinabalu Malaysia is supposed to be amazing, and we have 10 days in June. Both these places are for fantastic diving, and I hope snorkelling, and have hotel villas, where the rooms are on stilts in the ocean. You look out your bedroom balcony to the fish swimming in the turquoise water under you. hmmmm.....

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Back to catch my breath!

I am now back in Singapore to catch my breath. I have done a lot of travelling in the last month. Australia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam. I keep the leftover money from each country I go to - for the next visit there! I put it in ziploc bags. I have 10 TEN!!!! ziploc bags, of the different currencies I have used this past year! But I've done more trips than that , because I have been to some countries several times. I think the count is 21 trips I have made. I am not sure the size of my palette, but I do know it is not blank!

Doing trips so close together makes it hard to digest what I have seen. Kind of like "if it's Tuesday it must be Belgium". I will try to space them out a little. I don't have a trip planned for April. Yet.
My twin sister is arriving April 5th, with her husband Gord, and grand daughter Cammie. They are here for 3 weeks. They will do a side trip to Thailand, and I might go with them to Vietnam, HCMC and Mekong Delta.

I wanted to make a wee note about in Sri Lanka. Tim bought some take-out to eat on the train ride Galle - Colombo. He got it in a bag that was two pages of math homework, scotch taped to make a bag. Talk about recycling, and using things up.

I really have some things to digest with the last two trips, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Having stayed longer in each, and spending more time looking around, the poverty is something I want to cringe from. But you know, they are happy, generally speaking. They have very little, their house might be made of driftwood, on a mud floor, no windows, and a tin roof, but they seem to be tight knit families, happy children, "good" teens and the old OLD ones are part of the family, out selling chatchkas, or weaving, or playing with children. We befriended a lady who sold us our bottles of water. She was sitting on her front stairs, her daughter, her, her mother and her grandmother. 4 generations living and being together. It looked pretty nice to me. We met a very elderly lady selling at a roadside stand. She was well in to her nineties. In fact we met many 90 year or more old women. They are smiling, useful, amazing skin.

We did a bicycle tour in Hoi An. It's very flat around there so it was easy. But in such heat. It is wonderful that you can put on SPF 50 and be out in this scorching sun, and not get an ounce of colour. The tour took us around to men making fishing boats, the way they have done for centuries. Women weaving mats that they use for a mattress. The mats are cool on the platform (very hard) bed, and they might finish a beautifully designed mat/rug maybe 6'X10' and get $4. We ate a home cooked meal in someone's front yard. Biking past homes, the children playing would call out "helloooo hellooooo" and we would call back. We went through the rice paddies, along very narrow paths. On a bridge that looked like it was held together with spit. Hairy! We saw women making mother of pearl inlay boxes Beautiful. It was very refreshing to look at these artisans and not feel pressured to buy. I must say the touts in the old town really got to me.

They have the 90 year old women, and the adorable children in their pyjamas, at night sitting by the road side, selling candles. Lit and coloured and beautiful. But... I get the feeling that they know we have money so why don't we buy. What reason wold you have for not buying. If you have the money. "Buy from me. buy from me. Happy hour price" (that means two for one!)

When we went once to one tailor, it was a workshop filled with many different tailors. All women. Very competitive. There was a fight going on between several women. I thought it might become violent. Women are really good at screaming and yelling. It was so charged. A little embarrassing. I was so glad our tailor was not involved. But it must be so stressful to make enough money for your family when there is so much competition.

We picked up our clothes. Most of it is absolutely wonderful. I am unhappy with my outfit for the wedding. I am going to have to mail it back to her. She didn't line it. Which makes sense in this climate. But back home we are used to more structure, not billowy, flowy.

Now I will try to add photos. I never know if it will work, or this will get sent off without.
So here goes.

Tim's coconut drink

Jane's new pet, in a buddhist temple Colombo
 Our take away pineapple from the side of the road
 For heaven's sake- Just STOP!!! Botanical Garden Nuwara Eliyah
 Beach in Unawatuna, S.L.
 Tim's takeout bag
Out of that damn comfort box again, a 3 week old crocodile
Hands up, Baby, Hands up - chickens in the Hoi An market singing the Club Med song
Ninety three and looking mighty fine
My new man 96
 Hoi An, a beautiful tiny skinny lane, about 30" wide
Lanterns at night, so beautiful

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I sit on the balcony of our hotel in Hoi An. It is old, lovely little cabins around a pool that is perfect temperature. An area set aside for foot rubs! A bar you swim up to. We went for a swim last night, coloured lanterns lighting the pool, washed in soft colours. It really was magical.

Tim has gone for a dive, all day. I am so glad he is taking the chance for diving. I am left behind to mope around, going to a jeweller who does knock off Cartier, Tiffany, and I am going to do Christmas shopping! Then I will go to a tailor and design an outfit for a wedding back in Collingwood in September. It is tough, but I will try to stay strong, and persevere through.

Hoi An is a city in about the middle of Vietnam. Vietnam is a coastal country stretching from north of Hanoi, to south of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Hoi An is about midway. Vietnam has been plundered by everybody, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, American. The Vietnamease are a people so forgiving, resigned but with dignity and patience.

Hoi Yan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is charming, compact, old, a wonderful mix of local residents, local business, small hotels, (I have not seen any chain hotels) and retail and food vendors galore.

The VN live to eat. The food is amazingly delicious, delicate, complex, contrasting yin/yang flavours. We did a tour of Food of Hoi An. The guy, Neville, is quite a person. Came here for a holiday, fell in love with the food, moved here, and runs this 5 hour tour, to the market, to street stands, to restaurants for tastings. 7:30 to 12:30. Basically nonstop eating. Or I should say nibbling. The BEST ice cream I have ever had, coconut, and coffee, from a street hawker, homemade fruit pop tubes in ice in his rolling shop. I had a wee slug of VN coffee. Don't think coffee, think dessert substitute. They make it with sweetened condensed milk, and it is delicious. I sure wish I could drink caffeine. They have not heard of decaf. They look at you like "why bother then?

Aside from all the wonderful food treats, with addresses of best restaurants, Neville gave us a list of tailors for the perfunctory Hoi An purchases of tailored clothes in 3 days. We each brought an extra suitcase to take home our treasures. We each bought linen suits, two tops each, two cashmere suits, two tops each, and I think we are about to $500. Of course it's all in the fitting, which we have today.

Tomorrow we are going on a bicycle tour around the surrounds, visiting fishing village, have lunch with a local family, more about that after we have done it.

The country is very poor. To think of surviving on what they earn is mind boggling. I know we have so much and they so little. But last night I had an occurrence  that has wrankled me. We had had a meal in this restaurant near they hotel. Coming back last night, we stopped in for some food. The same server remembered us. She asked what we had done all day. I started by saying we had ordered suits to be made. "Why you not come to me? I have my sister make you beautiful clothes" I lied and said  we had made previous plans with this other place. But she was so miffed. Immediately she changed tack. "Jane, darling, you have children. I have daughter. I try to pay her expensive school. Can you help me with her education? " Post cards, note card come out. We thought we would help her a little. The postcards really are amazing photographs. we don't buy postcards, but thought oh well. We picked some cards and note cards. Forty dollars! No, thanks. It turned then. I felt we were being pushed, taken advantage of, and I just wanted to leave with no cards. We settled and left (with cards) but for less that $40, and a very sour taste in my mouth.

My iPad has a mind of its own and I just hope this gets posted as I have intended. Photos will follow when I am back to my computer, and am more familiar with how to do it. Can' t ask too much of this old broad. Now off to work, buy buy buy spend spend spend.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

We've seen much better

Unawatuna (sounds like Lion King, right?) is NOT one of the ten best beaches in the world. We have seen many much more beautiful. Too bad we spent our beach days at less than yet another Paradise.

We stayed at the Unawatuna Beach Resort. Sounded good to me. Oh my. We got to our room and found many many ants at the door to the balcony. Lots of ants. Then I put my bag on the bed and found more. We went to the front desk, and I asked to change rooms.

Sorry we are fully booked.
Sorry the manager is in a meeting.
We do have one we could show you.

It at least didn't have ants. But it is a hotel long past its shelf life. Apparently they have built a new wing, that we were not in, and they plan to tear down the old wing. Not a moment too soon, I say.

We did meet some interesting people. A couple from Australia who take 2 of 3 big trips a year and had spent 3 weeks in Sri Lanka! Another couple who are expats from Scotland, who built a place here, and come for the winter.

Frankly I can not imagine choosing this heat. The tea plantations,  yes, but the 33' and humidity here, and the poverty, and very third world, I would not choose.

The beach was a dark sand, filled with tourists, lots of Germans, Scandinavians, and Russians. The
beach was high and getting in the surf, the drop off was quick. The sunsets were less that breath taking. Listen to me, not the white powder sand, not the empty beaches all to ourselves, not the gorgeous fiery  red ball of a setting sun. OY I can' t stand myself.

Tim did a dive, in very sandy low visibility , and I walked the beach. The other hotels were really third world, and I guess at least I can say ours seemed the nicest.

There was a tragedy that happened. I noticed that there was a huge congregation of locals on the beach, and snorkellers and divers in the bay. Apparently, a young SL boy, 27, at medical school in the States, was home on holidays, was drunk, and drowned. It certainly put a pall  on our visit there.

We took a hotel room for the third night, in the fort at Galle. Just down the road. The hotel was gorgeous, old, started out as the govenor's mansion in the late 1800's, has been fixed up beautifully, but as a World Heritage Site, can only be done as it was. So beautiful wood, mahogany, and the setting was perfect and the service as well. A few great meals, breakfast by the pool in an interior courtyard, rather continental. Galle is an old town, dating way back, with residuals of the Dutch occupation, and they were who built this magnificent fort and town. When the tsunami came through, the dutch-built 10' stone walls held, where as the town was devastated.

To wander the fort you see a little of everything. Touts wanting some money somehow, begging, offer to take pic, tuk tuk? beautiful white cotton clothes ( those beautiful white cotton nightgowns, with cut out lace, $2!). There are VERY modest homes, very old, and run down. There are gentrified homes, and must be an expat community, ( we passed a talk being given around a table of maybe 20 expats or they looked like expats), some very beautiful jewelry shops, designed with local semi precious stones, art galleries, and funky clothes. The tourists were a mix of backpackers, and seniors.

We had some fabulous food. Sri Lankan food is very subtle. The curries are calm. I meant to buy a cook book. I will. I have one from Bali and am going to start collecting each cuisine. [I am going to an Indian cooking class next week- visit to the market, and a class, and lunch!- here in Sg]

We went to church, and it was in a small chapel. All 7 of us at the mass. It was so small I did both readings. Not much choice. Tim had forgotten his glasses! We expected the priest to toe the line and be very conservative. Well the homily was probably one of the best I have ever heard - on compassion- and we got to chat with him after. Got the low down on the conclave and the Vatican City gossip. He was a big surprise- in his white white robe, white white hair, and black black skin. The windows were open and there was a basketball game of young boys. Often the priest's voice was drowned out by the boys, but it added to the charm. I find the accent of the Singalese difficult to keep up to. I wonder if those 5 others at mass understood my accent when doing the readings!

We went by train back to Colombo. Now that was an experience!  We got 2nd class tickets - no such thing as first class. It cost us $5 to have the tuk tuk drive to the train station, and $3.74 for TWO tickets 70 k to Colombo. I think maybe the tuk tuk ride we paid too much $5?, but the train was $3.75 worth. Very dirty, very crowded, we had seats, windows open for air, but I was sitting in the sun , and the temp was 33". I was melting.

But then back to our gorgeous "palace" hotel in Colombo for a day. We hired a driver to take us back south (?) to a beautiful beach, Bentota, and we did a river safari up an inlet to see crocodiles, bats, mangroves (very cool to boat through them).

These posts are way too long. Sorry. But this week was a real eye opener. I think I don't need to see India. A terribly close-minded statement, but the heat, poverty, crowds, it is a handful.

Things are so busy, I do not have time to post pics. I will.
But tomorrow very early, we fly off to Vietnam, to  Hoi An to have clothes made. Yippee. I am fortified with photos of clothes from magazines, Tim will get a suit. We will get winter coats made (I call it my funeral outfit - ouch), and they make shoes and handbags, in 3 days , we are there for 6!!!!!
We are taking an extra suit case.

Oh yes, by the way SriLanka is west of us. Duh! And surprisingly north. At 35'- we are at 1'. No wonder its hot here. But oh my golly, Sri Lanka was too. Hotter I think. If that is possible.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

And What An Adventure

I am in my hotel room with long leggings and a big turtle neck sweater, chilled. I am in Sri Lanka, off the south east tip of India and it is 16'C!
Reality Check.

And yet this whole trip needs reality checks. We are in very definitely a third world country and yet the last two days have been a time warp back to Edwardian/Victorian England.

Let me explain.

We flew to Colombo, a 3 1/2 hour flight east, and a bit south of Singapore. Colombo is a city of under a million, very spread out. We were met by a driver (the ONLY way to go). The drive in, 45 minutes, passed poverty I have never seen before. People sleeping on the sidewalk, no blanket, no possessions. Tin shacks. Shanty alleyways.

Then to the beach, and in a circular driveway to our hotel, which might as well have been on another planet. A gorgeous hotel, like what I imagine colonial India was. Uniformed doormen, sari dressed women,  huge floral arrangements in the lobby. Our room was lovely, the hotel played classical music in the elevators, huge brownie points from me, and security at each elevator on each floor!

We booked a tour with a driver /guide to see Colomba, the museum, much of Buddhism (about which I had just attended a lecture a few days ago in Singapore- talk about reinforcing the lecture), To a beautiful Buddhist temple, where I fed an elephant. No not very temple has a resident elephant. We went to the Dutch museum, very small, but it did show us of the Dutch colonialism, before the British. We went to the National museum, and learned a great deal about this country of which we knew so little. Like why is it not more Hindu given it's proximity to India? Buddhism was in India before Hinduism, and was here before Hindus. The country is 65% Buddhist, 15% or so Protestant, Catholic, and Hindu.

We met a pilot friend for the evening, and he took us to this wonderful 200 year OLD hotel, Mount Lavinia, on the beach around the bay, looking across at the downtown skyline of Colombo. We had seafood on the beach of the Indian Ocean (when I was in Perth I had a meal on the other side of the Indian Ocean)

We then the next day, had a driver to drive us up in to the tea plantations. We are staying in two different old mansions from the colonial days of the Brits and the tea trade.

The drive here was beyond description. But I'll try. Sri Lankans either straddle the centre line, or pass where there is no passing lane. Our driver was going 70 k's through the crowded main streets of towns, no curbs, filled with pedestrians and kids, and motorbikes, and big trucks, and way too many of anything and everything. He was very good about not passing when a solid line, but only because the police sit at the end of solid lines, picking off all those who show no whit of attention to any road rules. Many times we would be passing, in the oncoming lane, with a truck passing another truck coming at us. Somehow it works, most of the time. But we have taken to noting the number of auto body shops, and the scraped fenders, front and back, of pretty well all trucks, busses and cars.

We stopped at a roadside stand to buy a pineapple. So fresh, and he cut it up, and gave us salt and chili powder to put on. We chose unadulterated but our driver relished the salt and chili.

We saw what are called pillow trees, they grow white puffs, and the puffs are used for stuffing pillows. When they are slept on, the next morning they puff up to their original .... Puff.

We stopped at an elephant preserve. Elephants really are cute. One ton of cute. Hairy, bristling, huge eyelashes, and brown eyes cute. Very trainable, but I did notice the honker chains around the ankle of each elephant.

We saw many country houses/shacks, with barbed wire fencing. To keep out the wild boars who make havoc.

We drove to Nuwara Eliya. At 5000' feet, where they grow tea. Huge plantations. Did a tour. How they grade the leaves, sort them, dry them (1hour) then that is white and green tea. Fermenting the leaves makes black tea, which has caffeine because of the fermenting!

We stayed one night at The Hill Club, a hotel that was a private English hunting and fishing club. Still very British. When we went to bed, they had turned down the sheets and put in a hot water bottle! That stayed warm until the morning! All sorts of photos of leopards. Why? Because the jungle we saw STILL has wild leopards.

We moved to another baronial home turned hotel. Very English, very charming, a little tired, but charming. Tim had afternoon tea. I had an Elephant Kiss, some boosey cocktail. We now loll in the room hoping we will feel some hunger before it is bed time.

It is cold here. Like fall at home or very English. Wet, some rain, much fog clinging to the tops of the hills. It is gorgeous. The camera can not capture the wonderful mood here. We stopped in Colombo to visit a store to go to their Winter Department, to buy some polar fleece for these hills. With all our clothes stored in Canada, no warm clothes in Singapore, so we had to get something for this damp foggy weather.

Tomorrow we have a 6 hour drive to the south west coast of Sri Lanka to what is said to be one of the ten best beaches in the WORLD!!! I'll let you know!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

catch up

I have to do a bit of catch up. So many things I've done recently, but am off tonight on another adventure,  so I want to make sure I get this posted before I head out.

There was a parade last weekend. Chingay Parade. It is a celebration of the multiculturalism of Singapore. Which I have to say seems to really work. In 1972 they outlawed fireworks. A big deal for the Chinese community, for they are big on fireworks. For safety reasons they outlawed them, and the tradeoff was a parade that culminated in controlled fireworks.

It started pretty small but has grown in to a huge production. They had thousands of volunteers and thousands of participants.  I was surprised there were any Singaporeans left to sit in the stands.

It really was hilarious. A human fence of teenagers in red t-shirts from the mrt stop to the stands showed us the way.  A very good thing, because Singaporeans do not sign well. We were in temporary stands that sat probably 5,000. There had to be 10-15,000 volunteers in the parade. I exaggerate not. The parade was on 2 nights, in this location, and then the next 2 weekends was in other street locations. They expected 15,000 to see it.

Nobody can do spectacular the way the Chinese can. 2 Hours of non stop floats, walkers, music. Each community was represented. A Malaysian float, a Chinese float, a Japanese float, a Tamil float, floats of a community cooking school ( they were on little golf carts, and stopped to stir fry garlic, ginger and onions, on a real burner!). Zumba dancers were represented, hundreds dancing by in matching neon coloured Zumba Club outfits.

There were pop singers on floats, there were school children playing ukeleles, there was Chinese Opera, there was Tamil drama,  there were stilt walkers, of all ages, everything you have ever seen at a parade was here. In neon colours, with more lights than you can imagine.

We were given loot bags that had pompom shakers and whistles. We were encouraged to shake the pompoms and blow the whistles. AND we were taught this really catchy cheer.
Check this out.

Chingay chingay we are one
Parade parade we are one
People people we are one
Singaporeans singaporeans we are one.
Now try that about 50 times, at full voice, with thousands of others, with whistles blowing, pompoms shaking, and microphone blaring. It is just soooo catchy, don't you think?

I will have a tough time limiting the number of pics I attach.

I went to a yoga work shop and it was terrific. 1 1/2 hours of tough yoga, then a talk by a nutritionist about switching to vegetarianism. I learned a few things I will pass on, that I didn't know before. Most I had read about, heard about, but.... eat fruits on an empty stomach. They are full of good things that get bypassed if being digested with other food. So after a meal is not as good as 1 hour before. Also if using almonds in a smoothie, soak them overnight and then when you blend them in they become very creamy not chunky.

The woman, Shalu, has a cooking school walking distance from me, so I have signed up for some cooking classes, and have bought a blender. We have had 2 fruit smoothies, yum, and are going to try a veggie smoothy for supper.

For me I am not going to eat anything else, and it will be a detox day. Tim doesn't believe in those things, so he just had some eggs and toast.

Tonight we are off to Sri Lanka. Hope to go into the hills to the tea plantations, and to apparently some of the best beaches in the world. Oh, just eat you heart out. I have bought a camera so I hope my pics will be better.

The parade theme was fire and ice. Two challenges that Singaporeans face with strength and purpose They had snow at the end. My parade photos will not truly capture that wonderful Chingay chingay we are one spirit, but here goes.