Just some stuff I want to share with you

Posts in category Holiday

Holiday: the small gap in your schedule where you don’t visit the office to do your work…

The eagle has landed

The rain in Singapore has had a lot of effects. As you can read from my previous post, it is not pleasant to go outside. But if the sun does not show, the temperature drops to a nice 20 – 25 degrees level.

Another interesting thing (and this is a worldwide effect): you will get traffic jams. And that’s not what you want to end up in when you are trying to get to your plane. Well I did… This nice 4 lane road from Singapore to the airport was packed, because of 2 stupid accidents (nobody got hurt, just a lot of bumps and scratches on the cars). I got to the checkin-desk just in time, but the pilots didn’t…. So there we were all waiting for our “drivers”. Delay: 45 minutes. But they were not the only pilots stuck in traffic, so several flights had severe delays because of these 2 small incidents.

We took off with a delay of just over 1 hour. The first 2 hours we had all sorts of bad weather in the area, so the plane had to make several detours/route changes to stay away from the lightning. And we saw loads of flashes all around. Nice to look at, especially when you know you’re not even close to these bad boys. The captain tried to make up for the loss of time due to the traffic jam, but he couldn’t. So after a 7 hour flight, we arrived just over 1 hour later than planned in Brisbane.

But who cares? Well, not me! I am “on the island” of “no worries mate”.

First impressions of Brisbane: the temperature is good (25 degrees), it’s very cloudy and windy and they expect rain for the next few days. We travelled from the airport to my hotel, which is in the center of town, in the timeframe that everybody goes to work. So I expected a lot of traffic. But it wasn’t there.

The hotel is not very inspiring. When I look outside (I am on the 14th floor) I see…

P1000665
P1000666
P1000667
P1000668

The room itself is big and clean, so it will do for the next few days.

I have done my homework: informed CASA that I am now in Australia (So get my flying license organized and give me my security card. A bit more on the frustration related to that in a future post.), I have browsed through the stack of hotel vouchers that were waiting for me when I arrived here and my blog is up to date again. Time to unpack my suitcase, take a short nap (my internal clock is totally messed up now…) and then explore the neighborhood.

Tuesday 10 March 2009

A rainy day in Singapore

As the title already suggests: today it rained in Singapore. And you know what: it’s so wet that I can’t even get to the mall that’s across the road of my hotel (that’s about 50 meters or so) without getting wetter than when taking a shower. Another nasty effect: normally humidity here is high. I leave it to your imagination what happens when it rains here and the sun shows itself for 10 minutes. Well the locals have a solution: you stay in!

So did I. The only options available today are shops or museums. Or work on my website and have a relaxing day in the hotel. Drinking coffee or something more refreshing (Tiger it’s called over here) and do a whole lot of nothing. Well look at the site and you can figure out what I did today.

In a few hours I leave Singapore to fly to Brisbane. Well Australia here I come!

Monday 9 March 2009

Exploring Singapore – in one day

Well I never planned to go to Singapore, but flying from The Netherlands to Australia is a very long flight. So staying over in a city like Singapore and then continue the flight is a relaxing way of getting there.

So then you end up in Singapore. What to do with the 2 days you have? I got several folders of the town and looking at the Internet, this must be shopping heaven. But there must be more to this place. Keep in mind that there are 4.8 million people living here on a relatively small island (It’s just over 700 square kilometers and therefore it’s packed…) and they want more than just shops. Well, my travel agent already solved the “what to do” issue: they booked me on the 3.5 hours “Experience the City” tour.

As planned, on Sunday 9.00 a driver picked me up at the hotel and brought me to the place where most of the tours start: at the Singapore flyer (the biggest observation wheel that exists today). But I was not here for the flyer I was here for an exciting tour though town. There was my bus: full of tourists from all over the world “doing” the city in a few hours. Andrew, our host for the tour, was going to make sure that all the highlights of this town were going to be visited.

After a short drive, we stopped at Esplanade Park and we got off the bus to explore the area. Here you will find a funny shaped theater. The architect wanted it to look like a microphone, but the locals call it the Durian (a smelly but beloved fruit) because the skin of the building resembles the fruit. The outer part of the building is all glass and they had to do something to keep the sun out. That gave the building its looks. Singapore is building another big “arts and events” centre. And this is Singapore so it’s going to be big and luxurious. This will also house the first casino in town (the build is financed by a group from America, located in Las Vegas).

P1000587
P1000588
P1000589
P1000590
P1000591
P1000592
P1000593
P1000594
P1000595

After walking for about 5 minutes, Andrew pointed out that this was the best location to take pictures of the financial district. So we did… Here I also found out that there were “water-Andrews” hauling boats full of tourist over the Singapore river (hey this city has the busiest port of the world, so they now their business). After all these exciting insights it was time to return to the bus.

P1000597

On our way I asked Andrew what 4.8 million people were doing on a Sunday afternoon. He replied: you will find most of them in the shopping malls. Not to shop, but they have air conditioners (and it’s hot out here: temperatures around 30 degrees and humidity over 85%). Other popular destination are the film theater (it is a very cheap way to be entertained for hours and again it’s cool in there), community centers and churches (as we found out later on this tour, all major religions can be found in this city).

On our way over to the bus we stumbled upon a group of photographers taking pictures of a girl that was dressed as a ballerina. This of course raised a few questions: is she famous or what? No: this was a group of amateur photographers that hired the girl to pose in different locations.

P1000598

Once on the bus again we drove to Little India (personally I think the name says it all) and there we got off the bus again for a 20 minute walk. We weren’t the only group here, because when Andrew was trying to explain ALL the highlights of Little India (little is the right word here) there were many more “Andrews” around telling more or less the same story to another group of visitors. Now it became clear to me why the organizers of this tour wanted me to stick a label to my shirt: without these labels the “Andrews” were going to lose their flock…

Well we got to learn what the color of the spot that Indian women put on their forehead means (Red = married, keep your hands off, Black = available, I may be interested), what the different flowers they were selling here were used for and then of course: the ins and outs about Ganesha.

And back to bus to our next exciting stop: Little China. It took the driver some time to get the bus parked: there were at least another 10 to 15 of these busses on a small parking lot. “There must a convention in town” according to Andrew. I think business was booming and after talking to some of the other tourists, none of them was here for a convention.

Little China is again the right description: a lot of shops in the market place and stalls on the road, selling everything you can think of. In the market they sell mostly clothing, suitcases and food. In the stalls everything the tourist wants: shiny stuff and lots of it. The other interesting item here was a temple. Well look at the pictures…

P1000600
P1000602
P1000603
P1000604
P1000605

Small detail: look at the apartment building. You will see that they don’t have wash dryers here: they don’t need to. It’s so hot here, you just hang your wet wash outside (and hope that the humidity outside is less than that of your wet clothing). You can see this all over town.

P1000599

After 20 minutes it was time to leave for our next stop. On our way we got to drive through the financial district which is ranked one of the 3 biggest and most important financial centers of the world. We found out that Andrew used to be working on the stock exchange. “Used to be” because he was one of the victims of the financial escapades of Nick Leeson who used to work for Barings Bank and caused the collapse of that bank in 1995.

We were on our way to “Singapore Chems & Metals Co.”. Here 18 people cut, polish, cut and transfer raw material into amazing things. Well look at the pictures. The craftsmanship is amazing. A single person can work for over a year to create the bigger pieces and if you zoom in on the pictures, you can see what the final result costs…

P1000616
P1000617
P1000618
P1000619
P1000620
P1000621
P1000623
P1000626
P1000627
P1000628
P1000632
P1000634
P1000636
P1000639

Andrew explained the importance of these items. It’s all about Feng shui. Every Chinese business man wants to have a mountain behind him at work (indicating the business is rock solid), or a waterfall (money will flow to him) and then there was something with the birds as well, but I forgot that piece.

The next and last stop of the tour was a visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. This is a 52 hectares area showing a massive collection of orchids (including Singapore’s national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim) and other plants and trees. Some of it contained in well landscaped plots others in a more natural looking rainforest. You can spend at least a day in here if you are into flowers, plants and/or trees.

P1000640
P1000641
P1000642
P1000643
P1000644
P1000645
P1000652
P1000653
P1000654
P1000657
P1000658
P1000659
P1000660

It’s good to see that Singapore keeps these gardens as a nice green area in town. It must be worth a whole lot of money if you would sell it to project developers…

Here my tour ended and I was brought back to my hotel. By now it was 14.00 so time flew by. Singapore has a free bus service that takes you to a lot of places in town: the Hop on Hop off service. After my tour I hopped on the bus to see where it would bring me. This is a very commercial driven service: out of the 22 stops, 18 are located near a hotel or a shopping mall. Well I am in shopping heaven here, so let’s “do” a mall. I choose Raffles City (by the way: the name Raffles appears all over town. This because of the founder of the city: Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles). It was exactly what I expected: an American style shopping mall. So after 15 minutes (I really searched for a reason to stay here…) I had enough and went back to my bus stop (just in time: I caught the last bus of the day) and back to the hotel.

My hotel is along the Singapore River in the Clarke Quay area. Here you will find lots of restaurants, bars and pubs and since it is Sunday, it is busy here. Beside the vast amount of tourist, there are also a lot of locals. A lot of young couples come here to meet and hang out along the riverbank. Just relaxing, talking and having a moment away of the day to day live.

It’s been a long day and I “have been there and done that”, the tourist way.

Sunday 8 March 2009

On my way… The Australian adventure has begun.

The adventure has begun. Friday 6 March I left home to fly to Singapore, my first stop. After a nice taxi ride to Amsterdam Schiphol and some strolling along the shops, I decided to have a look at the British Airway business lounge. This is a first time: I have bought a business class ticket to and from Australia and therefore I get all this luxury: use of the lounge, good meals, a lot of space and perfect service. So it’s going to be like heaven, with angels and all…

Okay, back to reality: the BA lounge is filled with men in suits eating chips and drinking red wine, playing with a Blackberry or regular phone (these should be banned from a lounge like this of course: walking into the Business Lounge with a regular cellular. You don’t deserve to be here!).

Well the drinks are free (hey I am Dutch, so that counts!) and that’s also the case for Internet access, so it allowed me to put my website online. The flight to London Heathrow was great. Service was fantastic and I actually enjoyed the meal. We came in over London city and the view was spectacular. Great views of the Bridge, the wheel, the warf, lots of lights (it was already dark, but the few clouds were high up). Tried to take some pictures but that didn’t work. Too much glare from the windows, so I deleted them.

Although I could use the business lounge at Heathrow as well, I decided to go for a walk. I had a lot of sitting time ahead: the trip from London to Singapore takes 11 hours. Well all I can say: if you have seen one airport, you have seen most of them. And Heathrow is no different.

The flight to Singapore was booked to the max. So, long lines before checking. But not for me: hey, I bought a business class ticket, so I can walk to the desk and make hundreds of passengers really jealous… Heaven, angels, the lot. Then I got on board of this big Boeing 7-something , upstairs searching for my luxury seat. Man, these are BIG… I had to call Simon to tell him 😉

We had a great flight over to Singapore. I sat next to an Australian bloke who has been working in the UK for the last 18 months and was really looking forward to some decent weather. It’s strange: you start in the dark, then after so many hours it is light again and then it’s getting dark when you land. Got to the hotel by 21:00 local time. Exhausted, but with just enough energy to create this post. Going to bed now, because tomorrow 9:00 I am on a “complementary” tour to see all the highlights of this big city.

Saturday 7 March 2009