Monday, September 28, 2009

Formula One

After three weeks abroad, it was time to stay home for a weekend in Singapore. But, by no means did that mean a quiet weekend. The F1 was in town, so the city was abuzz - AND I had my first visitor! The visit was a fantastic excuse to see some of the city - including Arab Street (the best shopping in town - forget orchard road) and Sunday Brunch (people will tell you to go to Raffles, but you really can't beat the Swiss Hotel - it's on the 70th floor!).

And, finally, the event itself was awesome. I'm not exactly a car buff, but it's hard not to get caught up in the event. The earth shakes when the cars go past. You can feel it through your body!

To finish off the night, we checked out a free live concert by the backstreet boys. To put it briefly, there's a reason why their concerts are free now.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kuala Lumpur

Another weekend = another destination. This time, Kuala Lumpur. Accompanied by six other students, of course representing six different countries (Japan, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Holland, France). My new Russian friend Nadia found us a screaming deal at the Ritz Carlton (who says students can't stay in style!). This was a valuable lesson - hotel rack rates are for chumps - at least in SE asia.
We made the rounds to the usual tourist sites - china town, little india, the Bahtu Caves, the Petronas towers, etc - but the highlight had to be a street market called 'tasty corner'. Filled with outdoor restaurants, this place serves everything the ocean has to offer - and a few things from the mainland as well. Our feature dish? Frogs! My Spanish friend, Bosco, really enjoyed playing god.

That was the first (and probably the last) time that I need to watch my dinner die.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Singapore Life 3 - Getting Around

Grocery store is a 5 minute walk. School is a 10 minute walk. Public transport is about 15 minute walk. None of that matters, since you break a sweat after stepping outside. Everyone takes cabs everywhere. Even to school. Seriously. Cabs here are cheap. It's so handy. It's like S$3 to get to school - split that 4 ways and you'll find that a lot of people would trade pocket change for a 5 minute snooze. When I first heard of it, I swore that I would not succumb to such laziness. But, alas, I took a cab to school this morning.

Friday, September 18, 2009

International Medical Care

I've been listening to the sound of my flatmate hobbling around on his crutches all week. Clack clack. Clack clack. Clack clack. Amusing for me, but not so much for him. So, he sought a second opinion from a Singapore doctor today. Turns out that it was only a sprain! That's good news for his social life (which was sure to suffer on account of the inconvenience of the crutches), but bad news for his wallet (an emergency cast and crutches aren't cheap!). Who knows whether it was an honest mistake or an intentional overdiagnosis. Pretty funny though.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bali, Indonesia

Following on last weekend's success, I headed to Bali with a group of classmates this weekend. There were a few dozen of us, but I joined a splinter group that headed inland to Ubud for some more 'culture', while the rest remained in Seminyak for beaches and night life. Our adventure began at the immigration counter at Denpasar. Something like 3 million people pass through here each year, though you wouldn't guess it by the novice efficiency with which incomers are processed. What was supposed to be around 4 hours in transit turned in to 8 (there was alo a flight delay). By the time that we reached our hotel, all of the nearby restaurants were closed, so we resorted to 24 hour delivery MacDonald's.

Wasting no time the next morning, our first stop was a sacred monkey forest. My first experience seeing monkey's in the wiled, and probably my last deliberate attempt to do so. Although I survived the adventure unscathed, others were not so lucky. Monkeys are cool, but they are smart and can be aggressive - two qualities that I'm not seeking in uncaged wildlife.

Rice terraces, temples and cultural shows filled out the remainder of our formal itinerary. Clinics, emergency rooms and a night time driving tour were last minute additions for a few of my colleagues, after Mahmoud injured his ankle at the pool. He'd been searching all day for a good souvenir. I'm not sure that a cast and crutches were what he had in mind. As for me, all I took home with me were pictures.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Singapore Life 3 - Regional Travel

One of the attractions to staying in Singapore is its proximity to other destinations in southeast asia. And, although many of us are loving the Singapore lifestyle so far, we are not wasting any time in discovering this. This weekend, the destination was Bintan, an Indonesian Island accessable by a short ferry ride from Singapore. The attraction? Beaches. About 40 of us made the voyage, which enabled us to pretty much take over the resort and the patch of beach situated in front of it. The entire trip lasted less than 48 hours, which was not long enough to qualify for duty free, but long enough to have some fun. I can't say that there was much by way of cultural discovery, but the beach was fantastic and it was a great opportunity to get to know a few of my classmates.

A few more pictures from the trip can be found here.