So, here we are back from an incredible trip to the Far East!
Singapore was beautiful and relaxing and it was great to have a daughter who lives there to show us around and who looked after us so well!
Bangkok was an eye-opener. I have never seen so many roadside stalls and cookeries as we saw there. It seems that everybody just eats all the time.
You see myriads of cooking stalls serving anything from prawns, to squid and frogs and tortoises. The latter are slaughtered on the spot and all food is prepared fresh in huge woks.
I must say that I stopped myself at the look of some of it although I promised myself that I would try everything once.
Singapore was different. Very much first world and with it's own beauty. There is so much to do and see that you can keep yourself busy for weeks without a problem.
Singapore is a multi-ethnic city with a population of about 4 million people, many of whom are descendants of immigrants from China (76%), the Malay Peninsula (14%), the Indian sub-continent (8%), and Europe (2%).
Eurasians do not form a single ethnic group, but are the descendants of various Asian peoples (Malay, Chinese, Indian, Bataks etc.) on the one hand and "Europeans" (the colonial powers such as the Portuguese, Dutch and British as well as migrants from Central and Eastern Europe) on the other.
While there, and leafing through some books on Singapore, I saw the graph for the yearly temperatures. Virtually a straight line of 31C average!
The town has a couple of very distinct areas and we could be found in any or more of them most of the time!
First of all there is Orchard road
This is a long road where you find the most incredible shopping centers. The wealth just oozes out of every pore of every building in Orchard road.
Buildings such as Ngee-Ann City and the Paragon are a shoppers' paradise with all of the designer shops such as Chanel, Prada etc. etc. next to the most exquisite restaurants.
There are restaurants and places to eat (huge food courts) all over town. It seems that food is the favourite pastime for all Singaporeans!
Of course there are other shopping centers
as well in other parts of the town. Some of them have over 1 million square feet of retail space!
Then there is China Town
with its narrow little streets crammed with tiny shops, road-side food stalls and small "restaurants". We had breakfast there once in Smith street. I had a typical Chinese breakfast consisting of two boiled eggs (1 minute only) and bread with butter ladled on it. A runny business!
Another area is Little India
. There we found find myriads of Indian eateries and shops as well as a huge, block long, four storey shopping center called Mustafa's. This is a 24 hour shopping Mecca for anything from the latest in electronics to a bar of soap.
Needless to say we spent a lot of time looking (and buying) some of the goodies on sale.
Before I forget I must mention Funan Digital Center. This is a 5 storey shopping center just for electronics. You must see it to believe it!
Then there is the Colonial part with all its old colonial buildings dating back to the 1800s. That part of town with its long esplanade and beautiful rolling parks is a little haven in the middle of the hustle and bustle that is Singapore.
The first night we had dinner in a Banana Leaf Restaurant. Your plate is a banana leaf. I had the curried fish head which is a 'must' when you visit Singapore. Just as much as the Singapore Sling in the Long Bar at the Raffles hotel!
The Raffles Hotel is also typically colonial and very, very pricy!
One of our favourites was to visit the "wet markets". These are long halls with stalls where wet foods are cleaned and sold. Food such as fish, prawns, frogs and squid are just a couple of the normal things we saw there. I won't mention some of the others. (Gag!)
Next to a "wet market" you will find a food court where you can get anything and everything. My favourite was the suckling pig but I passed by the "Intestine Soup" place. I guess that I was just not cut out to have soup made from pig liver, bladder, stomach and such. Rather give me some frogs then!
But, back to what is normal for us ....
Just South of Singapore is Sentosa Island
. Sentosa is full of hotels and entertainment for young and old. One of the most impressive was the undersea aquarium.
You "walk" on a moving belt through a glass tunnel with fish and other sea animals all around you. Quite incredible!
As a Christmas present we were given a two night stay at the Shrangila Hotel on Sentosa . These hotels are going to be my death one day. The food is so nice that I just can't stop eating!
This stay gave us a welcome break from all the sightseeing and shopping we had been doing!
If you want to see something really incredible visit Singapore during Christmas time.
The lighting is something out of a 1001 nights!
And then there was Bangkok
Very, very much third world but with incredible temples and palaces. Everything is very inexpensive. So we would sit in a river side restaurant for about three hours just nibbling on prawns at just R 9.00 (that's not a typo) or 90 Euro cents per plate!
Taxi's cost around 2-4 Euros and the Tuk-Tuks 1-2 Euros.
Once again there were the China Town and Indian sections and the rich center of Bangkok with the largest shopping center I have ever seen. Siam Square.
My preferred mode of transport was the Tuk-Tuk, a three-wheeler scooter (like a Vespa) with a seat for two or three (small people) behind the driver. Have a look on the left and click to see the picture big! (She's not picking her nose!)
June was a bit wary to start with but soon got the hang of it. They are everywhere and they charge nothing. For a couple of Baht (the monetary unit) one travels from place to place. Noisy and a bit scary at times but very quick and convenient.
The water taxis were something else. Through large parts of Bangkok you will find canals. On these you have water taxis. These are long boats that move at an incredible speed over the water. They stop at the "stations", just like at a tram or railway station but then next to the river of course.
People scramble on board and off it goes like a speed boat. The "conductors" who collect the fare (typically around 15 Euro cents) wear crash helmets lest they connect with a low bridge. They walk along the side of the boat like acrobats.
These things must move at 80km per hour. Even I found it little scary. I won't tell you what June thought about them.
Once you are on you will find a rope next to some people. You pull that up to raise a sail cover to prevent you from getting sopping wet during the journey from the water spray (see right, click to see big).
We stayed in a little boutique hotel called the "Old Bangkok Inn"
. This was very conveniently situated in the old part of the town where most of the sightseeing is done. Excellent service although a bit small. It only has eight rooms. We stayed in the "Lemon Grass" room.
The Royal Palace
(Wat Phra Kaewat) on the river was incredible. The King does not live there any longer so one can visit every corner of this sprawling building. Actually that is wrong. It is not one building there are dozens of buildings.
The most impressive was the Wat Phra Si Rattanasatsadaram , the temple of the "Emerald Budha"
We have seen the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican and now the temple of the Emerald Buddha. I honestly cannot say which is the more beautiful of the two.
The art is so totally different and they are both breathtakingly beautiful.
However, the temple of the "Emerald Buddha" in Bangkok is certainly more impressive than anything I have seen before in my life.
In fact, when we came out and had put our shoes back on I said to June: "I just have to go back and see it again".
And that is exactly what I did.
And so we are back home.
As I am sitting here typing away I look outside and see that it is snowing "cats and dogs"!
Just the other day June said that we had not really had a winter yet. The temperatures have been so mild that at times I could work outside in the garden in a T-shirt!
Now, as I am sitting here many countries around us have been put on high alert. In Holland the trains will not be running during the day and in the UK they expect more than 3 000 schools to be closed!
Even the beach at Worthing (next to Brighton) in the UK was snowed under.
Everything is as white as you can imagine and it is beautiful!
Thank goodness I don't have to go out today so I can just sit and watch from the inside out.
They don't expect it to last long though. By the weekend it will be warm again. At least 7C!!
Life is slowly getting back to normal and we are already planning what to do this year for the holidays.
There is so much to see and so much to do and, it seems, so little time to do it all in. So we will keep on dreaming and take whatever next we are able to do as a blessing.
That leaves me with very little else to say so I wish you all of the best and we'll speak again next month.