Afloat in South Asia

Afloat in South Asia
Reclining Buddha; Rangoon

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Out and about with Sukhdeep

After a full eight hours of sleep we were raring to go. Bryan's dear friend from our HK days, Sukhdeep Singh, collected us at the hotel and we headed out to see the town.

The first stop was the Singapore Flyer, a cousin of the London Eye. The Flyer gives a great overview of the city. Each car can hold 28 people, though we were lucky enough to have one to ourselves so we could range freely and admire the view.

Here is the bay area around our hotel. Like so many places in Asia, Singapore has grown tremendously in every way over the past 15 years.

The wildest addition to the skyline is the new casino that looks like a boat borne aloft. Here is a view from the Flyer, which brought us to eye level with the amazing boat-like deck.....

On the way back to the car, we stopped to check out the latest in personal services in Singapore. At the fish spa, your pedicure is fine-tuned by letting little fish nibble the bits of dead skin from your feet. The kicker is that you get to choose how close a nibble you want; there are three tanks to choose from and the fish range from small to medium to large!

Next stop was the war museum at Changi. This was bound to be harrowing. I can remember being told as a child that Changi was among the worst POW camps of WII. We strapped on our audio guides and began to make our way around. Sukhdeep disappeared after a minute or so. It turned out that the director of the museum, who introduced the audio tour, is an old army friend of Sukhdeep's. S. went to the office found Jeya Ayadurai and we all went to lunch in Changi town. It was really fun to listen to those two debate the future of their country and interesting to hear Jeya's saga of getting the authorities to let him create the Changi Museum. Sukhdeep is on the right and Jeya is in the middle of this picture.

We had about an hour left of our tour so Sukhdeep took us to the other extreme of Singapore. The famous black and white houses on Mount Pleasant Road were build as posh colonial accommodation in the 1920's and '30's. I have seen them now and then in shelter magazines, sporting the latest facelift. To see a dozen or more of these gracious AngloAsian homes arrayed along leafy Mount Pleasant Road was a treat.

The grandest black and white of them all is the Senior Police Officer's Club. Here is Bryan entering this calm, airy building...

We headed back into the city and saw this truck as we stopped for a light. As always, Asia touches the sense of whimsy. The catering truck assures us that "Party Planning has never been easier". I'll have to get them to FEDX some of those fish heads for our next dinner party.

Walking back to the hotel we saw a cool public sculpture. This piece is about 30 feet high and consists of some 3000 Starbucks cups, plus plastic bottles. The artist periodically has workshops where the public can come and add to the piece.

In the evening we set out across the bridge to the Singapore Cricket Club. There we met Tony Egerton and a couple of the other folk from Bryan's Centre Re office in Hong Kong. Starting in the main bar and moving to the curry feast on the verandah, it was a long, fun evening. Here is Tony.....

And here is Singapore by night, from the verandah of the Cricket Club....

And so, again, so bed. We just do not have time for jetlag!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Birds in the Lion City

The longest commercial air route in the world is 18 hours from Newark to Singapore, direct. SQ accomplishes this by filling an A340-500 with only 105 business-class passengers and what a service it is! We arrived over an hour early, which put us at the Fullerton Hotel by 7am. This beautiful hotel was carefully inserted into the bones of the 1928 building that housed Singapore's general post office, stock exchange, ministry of finance and The Singapore Club. During a nice (very) early morning stroll, we planned the day ahead.

As I look back at this day, it epitomized what I look for in my travels - history, critters and friends - not necessarily in that order. On this sunny morning, we set forth on the MRT (Singapore's subway system) to get to Boon Lay, the stop nearest the Jurong Bird Park. I had fond memories of this park from ten years ago. It had the first large scale netted aviaries I had ever seen. The concept that a bird could be born, live, mate and die within the confines of a forest under a huge net was mind-blowing. At the same time, the place was distressing because the birds outside the nets lived in small, sad enclosures. The raptors were especially bleak. So - we set forth the see how the place was doing. Here are some of the critters who made it a wonderful afternoon....

The Loris are real Australian characters. We got the requisite little tub of Lori food and had a fine time with them.

This one was all over me! In this photo he was rifling my purse! I was not hiding any food in there - promise! I was not able to catch it on film, but this same fellow liked to lick my arm...salt deprived?

Everyone who knows me knows I love cockatoos. This pair was very demure....

These guys were more raucous and playful

And who could resist these parrots??

Another soft spot in my head is reserved for flamingoes. This guy and his friends get plenty of shrimp. There is another pool of flamingoes with a much paler pink color.
In amongst the pale flamingoes are some cool-looking spoonbills. This guy is taking off...

Sun conures are nearly extinct in their native South America - only about 1500 left in Brazil.
Jurong has a couple of hundred flying around in this aviary, where they were bred.

Finally - one last sultry, Australian gaze.......

We ended our first day with a visit with an old friend from painting class in Hong Kong. Caroline Mars lives with her family in Singapore now. She has expanded her skills beyond her Chinese painting...we last met when she was exhibiting in a gallery in NY's Chelsea. We saw Caroline and Rob in their sleek flat in the green belt - here we are standing in front of her installation based on the tenets of fung shui.

The tales of how this piece was made are fun! Getting her son to help set fire to the canvas with a hole; having the family help throw paint at a canvas from 4 flights up onto the top middle canvas....
After a fine Vietnamese dinner near our hotel with Caroline and Rob, we finally found our bed.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The posts from South America will have to wait - we are off to Asia tonight.

The photo above notwithstanding, this is the beginning of a series that will take us from Singapore to Chennai, by boat. All the wonderful pix and stories from last autumn's South America trip will appear when we get back from Asia.

Next stop: Singapore!!