A Travellerspoint blog

Singapore Life

sunny 32 °C

After 4 months of living in Singapore I figured I've been here for long enough to sum up what I think. Its also the first time I have lived on my own, which I am kinda enjoying although my flat is super hot (no AC in the lounge area). But this is forcing me to aclimatise which isn't such a bad thing, means I can wear jeans to work without feeling like I am going to melt (although I suspect I will suffer when I go home for Christmas).

Where to start - travel....

I had suspected that Singapore would be super organised with orderly queues for public transport, and initially thats what I saw, so was somewhat confused by the need for the "be gracious" song thats played at some MRT stations and on some trains. It basically tells you to wait till everyones off before getting on the train, give your seat to someone who needs it and generally be considerate. Then I travelled at rush hour. Oh my god its madness people will push on infront of you and so that generally means I was last on the train, and yet also seemed to manage to be last off to, as with the station in sight everyone rushes for the door. But rest assured I am giving as good as I get now (especially on a Wednesday when I have my hockey kit with me). Some people really do 'fake sleep' so as not to have to give up their seat!!

Walking can be dangerous....

I know I walk fast, but here I could be an olympic standard walker. People walk quite slowly, especially when getting on escalators, and after a few months I've foud out why. The people who design paths use the slipperiest materials possible so that when it rains it can be like skating. So I am mastering winding my way around people and much to Robs (guy at work) ammusement I always seem to be on the wrong side of the pavement battelling through the crowds. More on my first Singaporean bush walk later.

Sports

Still playing hockey and now am trying to learn to play badminton. Hockey as you would expect is hot, but badminton I thought would benefit from being indoors. Well it is indoors but there is no aircon as that could effect the flight of the shuttlecock, so its as hot as hockey. Only far more stuffy, its like wadeing through the air to be able to play.

Food is good though. Hawker centers are cheap and provide a wide choice of food. I am not that adventurous (I stear well clear of the pig organ soup stalls), but I am getting there and now quite happily eat some seafood, including crab. Only really cook at the weekends as I pass by food courts on my way home from work and its cheaper to eat out than cook. Also means I have to battle with the super market less (always a good thing).

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My Birthday celebrations (first time I felt slightly homesick)

Ok so Singapore is a nice place to live, very easy to get around and very westernised, I do however miss the bushwalking in Sydney. So today being a public holiday I decided to get out into nature a bit and go walking. So I headed to the MacRitchie Reservoir. Didn't really know where I was meant to get off the bus, so being me got off a couple of stops early. Oops, but found a little path that took me down to the reservoir so not too bad. But I did end up doing the walk in reverse, so found myself walking into the crowds. Always the way!!!

The walk started on boardwalks hugging the edge of the reservoir.
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It did end up a little muddy at some points, much to the disgust of some lady walking in the other direction, but it wasn't too bad (and I am not sure if there are leeches here or not, but I didn't get eaten so thats a good sign)
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There were monkeys everywhere too. All eagerly waiting for food, but feeding them will result in a $500 fine (Singapore is a fine city), so I snapped one and carried on.
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The highlight of the walk is the HSBC tree top walkway, whcih I didn't realise was a one way track will I reached the end of it and had to walk a further 2km to the start and then end up back where I'd started adding sever kms on to my walk (had I been going the right way I'd have avoided the double backing, but it was a pleasant day and not a hard walk so never mind). Hacking up a hill I found the suspended walkway.
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It was ok, and the view was pretty good, but you ended up in a gully and there were an aweful lot of steps to get back to the path. Bu now it was getting hot (maybe I haven't aclimatised)

It was well signposted so there was no chance of getting lost (looking back I liked the mystery of the bushwalking with Tim in Sydney - you never quite knew what to expect, the most awesome swimming pool turned out to be an inch of muddy water and the best cave ever didn't really look like a cave, more of a wall and all this after hacking yourway through sharp undergrowth). This was a very safe gentle walk, although on lady was warning her child about the black hairy leeches, but I'll have to wait till I am bitten to believe that)

Finally I wandered round the lake near my house. It was full of people and is the home of the turtle museum. Some guys collection that got too big for his house so he had to find somewhere else to house it. I can see why the guide books say don't bother heading out to the west unless you are here for a really long time. It was not very exciting (unless you are a mad tortise fan I guess, the pig ones were pretty weird). But its a nice quite place to live with a green view rather than a tower block right outside your window.

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Don't really know where I was going with this ramble, but to sum it up, I like living here its clean and safe and a great place to base yourself for exploring.

Posted by gt248 04:19 Archived in Singapore Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Diving

Open Water course at Aur and leisure dive at Tioman

sunny 28 °C

I am sure I have said "I'm going to learn to dive" many many times and then always wimped out. But after saying I wanted to give it a go I found myself learning the theory one weekend in June with my boss Charlie at the Living seas office in near Bugis MRT. Leon was brilliant, really patient despite our ability to confuse each other regarding buoyancy and our maths was well not always right, but by the end of the day not only had we heard many stories that seemed to revolve around coffins (ways to end up in one, recompression chambers are coffin shapped!!) but I think it was beginning to go in. The following day was the pool session. After swimming 200m and treading water for a while we learnt how to kit up. Wet suits donned we set up the BCD, Tanks, weight belts, fins and learnt how to jump in. I started with 3 weights and had a slight issue with actually getting under the water. Everytime I breathed in I bobbed back up. But 4 weights (8kgs) and I could stay under. I think my biggest fear had been what to do if your mask fills up with water. Well one of the first things we had to do was fill then up, then empty it (breath out through your nose). Mission complete and we headed off for a few laps at the bottom of the pool. The water wsn't exactly clean but I was slowly getting the feeling of control by breathing in and out. We learnt how to breath using our buddies spare regulator, and then we had to take off our mask and be lead about the bottom of the pool blind. We could take off our BCD under water and put it back on again (in case we get stuck on something) and learnt how to control our accent. Living seas (who I learnt with) follow the GUE methods, so rather than wait for 3 minutes at 5 m to control the release on N2 bubbles we stop at 9,6 and 3 m for 1 minute each to keep the bubbles from growing. Anyway the following weekend was the open water course.

We set off for Pualu Aur (Malaysia) on Friday evening on the coldest bus ever (may be a bit of an exaggeration) but I was thankful I had brought a jumper and a coat. Around midnight we boarded to slow boat to Pulau Aur, there were lots of us in not a lot of space on a rocky boat. I fell asleep and apparently was very close to falling off on numerous occasions.
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We arrive near the island at about 4am and had to wait for the small boat to come pick us up. The wade to the steps and climb up. Not too bad only it was dark and I was tired (and feeling a little seasick)
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But I made it and was then shown the hut I'd be sleeping in. Initially there were 3 of us, myself and two local girls. The grabbed the bottom bunk and I grabbed the top one. They then turned on the aircon to artic and I froze so had to put on my socks, trousers and jumper (that was easier than climbing over their stuff to turn the aircon off - there wasn't alot of room). An house or so later there was a knock at the door and a french girl appeared and shared the top bunk with me. Umm glamerous these diving lodgings!! Well they look nice from the outside and at least mine was near sea level (Charlie had to climb 60ft up to get to his)
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Bright and early the next morning (8.30) after breakfast we kitted up for our first dive. There were four of us, Myself Charlie, Jasmin (10) and another guys whose name I forgot (sorry). Sat on the edge of the pontoon Charlie lost his mask (we were told never to leave it lying around incase it falls over and true enough it sinks - it ws recovered later). So with a new mask we jumped in and bobbed about. Looking down we could see a rope 8m down and thats where we headed. But initially I was going nowhere. After letting out all the air from my BCD I just didn't sink. So with another weight (10kgs!!!) off I went. Its alot further than the 2m in the swimming pool. Once down there I began to panic less, it was very peaceful. Charlied had had a more stressful descent. His new mask leaked like crazy and he had to swop it. Thanks to the training last week that was achieved with no trouble. Quick practice of drills and off we went. Its all a bit of a blur now but we swam along the house reef. Afterwards we had lunch and recapped what we did wrong. That was the routine for the day. Dive, eat, recap. 3 dives down and I was feeling a tad more confident. It was fun.

The following morning it started raining while we were kitting up, but we jumped in and looking up you could see the rain hitting the surface. This was by far my favourite dive. We saw big bumphead parrot fish and got as deep as 18m (the maximum on OW). The final dive was moe stressful, I burst and O ring while setting up (load sudden emission of gas from the tank - but I was pleased it happened on the surface). It was also more crowded as we joined up with the leisure divers and I kept losing my buddy. But all in all it was an awesome weekend and Leon everyone from Living Seas really looked after us.

The view from Aur
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So when Yiling (a girl from work) said she was doing her advanced course with Living Seas I decided to go along too. However due to hockey I couldn't make the classes so went as a leisure diver. This time we headed to Tioman, another Malaysian Island that you can get to from Singapore in a weekend. A less cold bus ride this time, and rather than sleeping on a boat we stayed at Mersiling and got the fast ferry in the morning.

This time I dived with leader Dag, Dennis (my Buddy), Charles and Janet. All of whom were already Advanced divers with lots of experience and me with my 5 dives behind me. Oh no.

They had packed the kit for me and most of it was what I'd used lastime excpet for the wetsuit, which I was told was a similar size. Either I have lost a heap of weight or they remember me being a lot bigger than before but I could have got someone else in with me. So I ended up with a short wetsuit from the place on Tioman. I was a bit worried I'd feel the cold, but headed off and for the first dive we swam out from the beach. Dag had to change the plans when he realised is wasn't advanced and I felt a bit bad, but we still found the wreck and got to a depth of 22m. Dennis and I even found a cuttlefish, which changed colour and everything. It excited me anyway, then when we returned Leon asked if we'd seen the whaleshark. No was the answer, some people have all the luck!!

Dennis was a great buddy, opening the gas tanks for me as I have a highly useful talent of picking the toughest ones each time. Did three dives on the saturday, but no shark sighting. I was feeling more and more comfortable under water. We swam through a cave, through a sea fan garden and generally had a great time. There was less food than on the previous trip. But while everyone else headed off for the night dive (need to be advanced to do that - I need to learn how to use a torch/flashlight for the americans) I admired the stunning tan lines i'd aquired because of the short wetsuit and ate ice cream.

A night of drinking Rum (with a dash of coke) and they asked if I'd be happy going a bit deeper to see a wreck. Yup I think that would be ok. (Well I hope so anyway).

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So the next morning the 4 leisure divers joined those on the advnaced couse and we went to Tiger reef. Moments after sinking I saw a snake, moray eel and after drifiting with the current for a while a turtle. I was really excited by that, but everyone else missed it despite my frantic waving.

The final dive to the wreck was good, there are finally photos which I have stolen from Althene (Yilings Buddy) to prove I went. At the bottom even the most buoyant person (me) had to put air into their BCD to stop from sinking to the sea bed. Saw some big fish and the two wrecks - great fun. You don't have use up your air fast down there though. Coming up we stopped at 15, 12, 9, 6,3 m and that was a good test of controling buoyancy. Before I rattle on for ages here are some photos of me, dennis and Dag all under water

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So the outcome of all of this is that I want to go again and do my advanced course. YEAH.

Posted by gt248 07:20 Archived in Malaysia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

August long weekend in Kuching

Bit of culture and nature

sunny 34 °C

Its been a while since I last wrote anything and since then I have left Australia behind and found myself living in Singapore. Also means I have left the dodgy internet limits behind so now I can upload photos without fear of the frenchman cutting my connection for using up our limit. Yipee. Also figured that I am terrible at emailing people so if you are interested in my crazy adventures I'll try and keep this more upto date.

So I have been here for 4 months now, but will travel back to August and my first overseas long weekend from Singapore. 3 Days adventure in Borneo (thanks to Singapores National Day I had the 9th off work). I headed off with Carolyn and I at least was excited by the prospect of getting out into the Jungle, Carolyn was a little more apprehensive of my chosen accommodation, a night in a longhouse and a treehouse. But we started off with a night in a hotel with was not as grand as the name suggested (the Grand Continental), but it did include a big breakfast including curry which set us up nicely for the long drive to Annah Rais Longhouse, a fair way south.

We arrived at the longhouse around midmorning. I had expected the longhouse to be one longhouse on stilts, but infact its lots of houses on stilts joined together via raised platforms. The floor is super bouncy and is made of bamboo which in places seemed like it wouldn't support me, but I didn't fall through so all was good.
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We set off on the long walk into the jungle. I had expected it to be properly jungly with an enclosed canopy and leaf litter everywhere hiding leeches. Since my leech experience in Sydney I decided to hike with proper boots on and long trousers. As it turns out the jungle was very open (downside of this was that we were hiking though the heat of the day and it was really really hot) and very dry so there were no leeches. Despite looking hard I didn't sport any wildlife. I did however see hundereds of pitcher plants amd ferns.
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The hike was all uphill and very very hot.
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We were joined on the hike by a family from Lewis (uk) who had two kids (11). They didn't complain for the entire hike so if they could do it we could do it and a few house later we were back on tarmac looking at Indonesia in the distance. It doesn't come out well on the photos but it was very smoggy due to the slash and burn farming taking place in Indonesia. The burning bamboo exploded from time to time and sounding very much like gunfire.
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A final push through open scrub land (where wild chillies and garlic were growing) and we arrived at the highlight of the hike, the waterfall. The website describes it as a stunning waterfall, which I am sure it is in the wet season, but we were there in the dry season so there wasn't a lot of water. However we managed to stand under it and it was blissfully cold. While cooling off lunch was prepared, bamboo rice and chicken. Which was described by Tom (11) as the best food he's ever eaten. This earnt him seconds:)
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We then had the prospect of hiking back to the longhouse. We were all hot and had pretty much run out of water so decided to get a lift back. But because we hadn't organised this before had we had to wait for the truck to take all the students back first. Two truck loads and 45 minutes later we were still sat on the side of the road admiring one of the locals shoesP1000262.jpg. The kids were restless and so decided hitching was the best bet and flagged down a sand truck. The driver seemed amused and decided to drive us back to the village. And so we climbed up, it was very high and very sandy and we were killing ourselves laughing. We hung on for dear life as the drive seemed oblivious to the fact he had 6 people in the back and no back to the truck. We hurtled up and down hills on our sand truck rollar coaster. Brilliant.
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Upon arriving back we were informed however that there was a small water issue, there were a lot of people staying (about 40 students) and so there wasn't really any water for showers. Umm we were sweaty, sandy, muddy and generally hot. So were ushered down to the river for a wash. The muddy river was really stoney and all the Muslim Students were there too, and not that we wanted to strip but it would have been good to swim just in swimming costumes to give our shirts a bit of a wash, but instead took most of the mud back with us. Thankfully our house was a bit away from the main longhouse and we had water so could shower. Carolyn was horrified by the bathroom, a shower over the toilet with a hole in the floor and piles of washing in buckets. But it did the trick and feeling refreshed and clean we headed back to the restaurant for dinner and a show all organised by Mr Edward ( the brains behind the outfit). The show was a little odd, no idea what was going on but the dancers seemed to be having fun.P1000282.jpgP1000285.jpgP1000296.jpg

My mosquito repellant top (bought for the jungle last year) is still working and I may not have looked glamerous but I didn't get bitten, Carolyn on the other had suffered my usual fate. I like that top :) Anyway our room was basic and hot and my god the family were the loudest snorers on the planet. I don't think I slept a wink. Then about 5am an alarm went off, which was quieter than the snoring so everyone slept through it. Grrrr. Must remember ear plugs next time.P1000307.jpg

A few house in a minibus sat next to a pile of Durians which caused me to ride with my head out the window and hence catch the sun only on my right side and we arrived at the beach, were excitingly we were to stay in a treehouse. Their website said the rate included the contents of the minibar so we were excited. The treehouse was awesome, it was even airconditioned. But the free stuff amounted to 2 bottles of water a 7-up and beancurd drink. Ummm. Oh well.

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Recovering from a lack of sleep on the beach by sleeping and sitting in the sea. Initially I headed straight to the water to cool down. You could not see deeper than maybe 5cm and it was like very hot bath water. There was no be no break from the heat (I have no idea how hot it was but if felt a lot lot hotter than Singapore).
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The restaurant ot the resort was good, and when I asked for ice with my drink i gotP1000353.jpg

On the final morning we headed to Semingoh Orangutan rehabilitation centre. They are free to roam in the jungle but food is put out for them incase they can't find any. Were were warned that we may not see any as its fruiting season so ample food is available in the jungle. But we were lucky and saw two, one smaller one that stayed in the tree tops and another larger one that stuffed as much food in her mouth beofre swinging around. It was really exciting to see them
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A few more house on the beach and after 3 early starts (6am) we headed back to Singapore. It seems Kuching isn't a popular place to go from Singapore (2 girls on the flight on the way there only ended up there cause the flights were cheap and had no idea what there was to do) but I liked it. There were some mountains near the beach that I aim to go back to climb. Anyway that'll do for now. Learning to Dive next.....

Posted by gt248 05:52 Archived in Malaysia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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