I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!

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Thursday
Apr162015

Feeling thankful

 

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For an English garden in the Spring

 

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For my own laundry which leaves my washing smelling of home.

 

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For sunny days and washing lines which make it all smell even better.

 

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For house sitters who clear everything up when the freezer breaks.

 

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For blue skies and blossom

 

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For home.

Even if my desk does look like this right now Winking smile

Tuesday
Apr142015

Checking in, checking out.

 

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Managing the last day of a trip is always tricky, especially when the flight time is late evening.  We’d checked in for our BA flight to London before turning the light off last night and checked out of the hotel this morning.  Though we’d requested a late checkout, we had no intention of paying extra for the privilege, so we booked the “hospitality suite” instead and packed up early, leaving everything at the hotel for later.

 

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What works for us is to leave something significant for that last day.  On this occasion, it was the new “Gardens by the Bay”, which was still under construction when we were last here.

 

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We walked over from the hotel after breakfast, hoping to get there before the heat built up too much.  Hah!  Some hope!

 

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Though tickets aren’t needed to wander about through the park, we wanted to go inside the domes and so on, so our first stop was the visitor centre to work out what to do and when.

 

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The whole place is pretty big, so we took one of the audio tours first, just to get our bearings and get a feel for the place.  The aerial walkway up there in the “Supertrees” looked fun and it was to there which we headed first of all.

 

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On the way there, though, we had to stop and admire some of the gorgeous flowers.  Though I imagined this one would smell divine, you know, it smelled of nothing!

 

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These Supertrees are pretty special and provide all manner of services for the park.  The whole place is build upon environmentally sound principles and some of these structures contain hot air vents, solar panels and one has a restaurant inside.

 

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Once up at treetop level, there are spectacular views of the distant harbour and the surroundings.  Sometimes, my hero gets a bit wobbly in such places but this was all perfectly stable and fine.

 

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Thankfully, there weren’t so many people up here at this time and it was pleasantly cool, too.

 

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Though it takes hardly any time to walk the pathway, it was really great and well worth the effort of getting up here (no effort at all, there was a lift inside one of the tree trunks!)

 

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I imagine that, during the coming years, the framework of those trees will gradually be covered in climbing plants, but for now, I rather like the bare boned structure.

 

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Once down at ground level again, we decided to leave the lunchtime heat outside and head into the Cloud Forest.  This was one of the areas which needed a special ticket, the other one being the flower dome which was sadly closed today for maintenance.

 

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As soon as we stepped inside the Cloud Forest, the cool, damp air hit us!  The whole dome is misted every two hours and had just completed one cycle about ten minutes before we went inside.  The huge – seven storeys high – waterfall was the first sight we saw.  Wow.

(I waited for quite some time until everyone had taken their selfie, a picture of their girlfriend, a selfie with their girlfriend….and so on and so on.  People in Asia take even more photographs than I do!)

 

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From the ground floor, a lift takes visitors to the sixth floor, from where a flight of stairs leads to the highest point.  The “mountain” is simply covered in orchids and rich, lush planting and is absolutely stunning.

 

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By covered, I mean…..

 

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There are some exotic species in there, too.

 

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As we walked down hill, following the pathway, I recognised some of the flowers – not that I knew the name, but these pink blooms had featured in one of our National Park visits last week.  But which one?

 

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Actually, it was these funny Lego plants which reminded us of where – we’d seen the pitcher plants growing wild in Malaysia, on Mount Kinabalu.

 

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And as if the designer had been reading our minds, sure enough, guess where this “cloud florest” had been based upon?  Sadly, we’d not has a view like this because, surprise surprise, when we were there it was covered in cloud!

 

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Here and there, there were some magnificent set pieces where plants and props had been used to create a very photogenic scene.  But you know what happens then, don’t you?

 

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Out come the selfie sticks.

 

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then a queue builds up and what had been a nice, empty space in which to stand back and admire becomes a pushing contest.

 

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Never mind, there were always the flowers to admire.  (Don’t these look articifical?)

 

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Oh, and the men cleaning the roof!

 

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The walkway descends four floors and then links with another one lower down.  It’s all so clever, so accessible and absolutely fascinating.

 

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And unlike the real thing, this “Mount Kinabalu” has got a hollow core with exhibitions and displays inside.

 

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The last stretch took us behind the waterfall where we’d come in.  Beautiful.

 

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You know where the exit was, don’t you?  We could resist Winking smile

 

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Popular titles right now included these two. You know who Harry is/was, right?

 

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Even though we’d not been able to go into the second, flower dome, we felt our visit had been a great way to spend most of the day and in what was left of the afternoon, we thought we’d hop on an MRT and do just one or two last minute shopping errands.

 

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There’s a bright, shiny new station just across the road, so it was easy to do just that.

 

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The place was deserted, save for one or two folks taking photos of themselves!

 

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Oh my!

 

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Just one man wasn’t concerned with taking photos – he was sitting at his desk hard at work!

 

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We took the MRT to Orchard once again and I got to spend an hour or so in Kinokuniya – I’d forgotten about that yesterday!  I also got to take a photograph of the fretwork patterns on these panels where a new branch of the British India store is about to open.

 

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When we got back to City Hall Station, there was just one thing left to do – to reclaim the deposit on our Tourist cards.  But no-one was at home!  Thankfully,  it was about 2.44pm when we stepped up to the window, so we stood and waited until the blind was raised and business was done.

 

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No thank you.  Though we’ve eaten durian in Thailand, it’s not a favourite.  We sat and enjoyed cold drinks before returning to our hotel and making our way to the Hospitality suite to shower and change.

 

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Before long it was time to retrieve the other three suitcases and the painting Tra Giang so kindly gave us and await our car to the airport.

Tonight, as I sit in the lounge at Changi Airport, I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tomorrow night!  It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it?

Monday
Apr132015

In Singapore

 

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Having celebrated our anniversary with our friends in Signatures last evening, we decided to call it a day.  We said our goodbyes, bid everyone Goodnight and headed to our suite.

 

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Any thoughts of doing those final bits of packing before placing our luggage outside the door were forgotten, because Manu, Derlen and Made had been busy…

 

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Champagne on ice, cards, flowers and balloons all over the place.  How sweet!  My goodness, this will certainly be an anniversary to remember!

 

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We managed to push those suitcases out of the door in time and though we both woke up in a panic, wondering if we’d packed some vital piece of clothing and find ourselves without a stitch to wear today, we were actually rather well organised.  A slow steamy breakfast in the already humid Singaporean morning air, followed by a controlled disembarkation and transfer to our hotel.

 

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Bye Bye Voyager!  Tonight she sails for Kuala Lumpur without us… Sad smile

 

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But we plan some fun here and of course the first task is always to equip ourselves with travelcards.

 

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I had a couple of things on my list, the first one needing a trip to Arab Street, via Bugis MRT station.  You know, it’s twenty or so years since we were first here and I can still remember making this exact same journey with Edward as a little boy.  The road names are still familiar and some of the landmarks haven’t changed either.

 

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It’s an old bit of Singapore amidst the new, high rise.

 

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But some of the modern features are there to be seen amongst the old ones too.

 

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It was the fabric stores which were on my list, needless to say.

 

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Looking through batiks, Indian cottons and silks, my mission was soon accomplished.

 

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I wish I had this kind of resource on my doorstep at home!

 

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I must say, we were both feeling the heat rather by mid morning and it came as a relief to get back into the cool station and on another train, this time heading for Orchard, the main shopping street.

 

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Though rain had been forecast, none was forthcoming so far, thank goodness.  But a few dark clouds were gathering and we wouldn’t have been surprised had there not been a downpour.

 

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My mission this time was to FabIndia, to buy a top or two, perhaps.  Don’t you love those colours?!

 

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Across the road in another shopping centre we came across a really incongruous sight – Swiss menu anyone?

 

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Then right next door, a Garretts Popcorn shop, straight from Chicago!  Did you need a reminder of how international a city Singapore is?

 

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We made another MRT journey to a different mall, in the hope of a wider selection of FabIndia clothes, but it turned out to be fruitless.  Never mind – we’d kept going until mid afternoon and by now, surely, our hotel room would be ready?  Whilst on the train, I spotted this sticker on the window and noted how many “encouraging” notices there are about the city. 

I wonder how long before we’d tire of being nagged to behave?

 

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Thankfully, yes, our room was ready and we were glad to take the opportunity to put our feet up for a while.

 

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But both of us were getting hungry by 5.30 – 6-ish and so we walked over to the Marina Bay Sands Mall in the hope of finding something to eat.

Now, at this point, I couldn’t help but remember the last time we were here.  It was such a memorable evening that it would have been marvellous to recreate the whole affair once again.  But things like that don’t happen over and again and needless to say, this evening we simply enjoyed a pizza and a mooch around the shops.

 

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It’s a pretty soulless centre, really, with flashy shops and no-one buying anything.

 

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Coming outside again to wait for the sun to set, we looked up.  Ooooer!  The “boat” on the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel loomed over us rather!

 

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Walking back over the Helix bridge, we stood and stared.  What a fine city this is!

 

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Much of it isn’t to our taste – we don’t gamble, buy designer clothes or lead a flashy lifestyle.  But we can stand and admire the whole chutzpah of the place, the can-do attitude and the sheer energy.

 

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Not that we were feeling one jot energetic at this point!

It’s great to be back in Singapore.

(But oh, what creatures of habit we are.  I just read this post from the last time we were here!)

Sunday
Apr122015

Thirty Five years ago today

 

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Hard to imagine, really.

Today we’re at sea on our way to Singapore tomorrow.  We have a bit of packing (!) to do, but other than that, don’t plan to do very much at all other than to count our blessings and feel thankful.

I’ll feel even more thankful when my suitcases are both “comfortably stuffed”.

Saturday
Apr112015

A few more Buddhas

 

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Our last stop was a pagoda high up in the woods.  Amidst some unusual rock formations a temple had been built and some Buddhas carved into the rockfaces around it.

 

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There are resident monks here too and their washing line makes for a blast of colour amongst the trees.

 

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Not that colour was lacking in any respect, inside or out!  The interior of the temple was still being built but the central collection of Buddhas was unlike anything we’ve seen before.

 

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The wall paintings were bright and freshly painted in a modern style.  I rather liked the exuberance of colour and the flashes of fluorescent yellow, orange and pink.

 

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The light made photography a challenge but I was happy to simply capture the spirit of the place.

 

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Though Sok’s stories from the Buddha’s life came to an abrupt close when a shout was heard – someone had fallen into the hole. 

How?  No idea.  As the woman from Georgia said dryly to my Hero, standing next to her, “It’s a big enough hole”.

Thankfully, she was ok, save for a grazed knee, but it brought our temple visit to a close and we made our way back downhill.

 

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Sok wanted us to see the huge reclining Buddha, though, and to explain that this was Buddha deceased, not resting or sleeping.  However many times we’ve been told how to tell the difference, we still find it baffling!

 

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Anyway, whilst others concentrated on the figure and the finer details, I’m ashamed to say my eye had been caught by one or two Suffolk Puffs.

 

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The yellow tented ceiling was decorated with small pendants made from three Suffolk Puffs and they were dancing about in the breeze looking rather jolly.

 

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There were other small fabric decorations catching the breeze too.  Very effective.

 

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Though whilst I was taking pictures of those, another Buddha was watching silently on.

 

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We made our way back to the bus and returned to the ship through the same landscape as we’d come.  As we did, I made a mental note to seek out one or two Cambodian projects to support by means of Kiva once we get home.

 

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A quick turnaround then, for Trivia (not good today!) and the crew show which is always a must-see.

 

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Not forgetting dinner, of course.