Textile District

DSC02385 Our hotel is right across a major street from the major textile selling area of town.  The main street in this area is Arab Street, although “Textile District” is used almost interchangeably.  Purvi and I had gone to the restaurants in this area several times, but we had not made it early enough to go to the shops.

Today we got back from work early and walked all along the various stores filled with all kinds of fabric and other textiles.  All the fabric was so beautiful, I just wanted to take it all home!  We enjoyed the atmosphere of the street – there were tons of people out walking around and enjoying the evening.  We stopped by an ice cream vendor and got a treat (dessert first!) that is called “Biscuit Ice Cream” because you get a slab of ice cream between two waffle textured cookies (or biscuits if you speak British).  I am holding two ice creams, but one is Purvi’s, no really!

When the shops began to close, we stopped into Ambrosia, the restaurant I mentioned in an previous post.  We had a fun evening of shopping, and a pleasant dinner.  It was a great way to unwind from the two weeks of training!

Merlion Park

24 LD catches water from Merlion The Merlion symbol was designed as a logo for the Singapore tourism board in 1964. The Merlion has a fish tail and the torso of a lion. According to an article written by Cornelius-Takahama, Vernon in the Singapore Infopedia section of the Singapore National Library website:

The lion head alludes to the legend of Singapore’s founding by Sang Nila Utama, a Palembang Prince who, on his arrival on the island, saw what he thought to be a lion and thereafter renamed Temasek, Singapura or “Lion City”. The fish-tail represents Singapore’s links to the ancient sea-bound island which was Temasek and its long and successful association with the sea, reflecting how our forefathers traversed the oceans to come to Singapore and our subsequent dependence upon it as a port.

Naturally, I wanted to see this mythical creature! My co-workers in Singapore thought my strong desire to see the Merlion was hysterical, so they decided to join me. We had a lovely team dinner at a Thai restaurant at the Esplanade. I had a Tiger beer, which was very refreshing and went very well with the spicy green curry we ate.

The Esplanade is just across the bridge from Merlion Park, so after dinner we walked over to see the Merlion. There are actually two Merlions in Merlion Park. One is 8.6 meters tall, and the other is two meters tall. The smaller Merlion is sometimes referred to as the Merlion cub. They were just as fantastic as I knew they would be! The larger Merlion actually spits water out of its mouth into the Singapore River! I had a great time pretending to catch the water in my mouth or wash my hair – my team had a great time taking pictures of my antics. Despite the fact that they started out thinking my obsession with the Merlion was silly, they all had a great time, and we laughed very hard!

The outing produced tons of great pictures of some of the most iconic tourist attractions in Singapore!  You can see me (having the worst hair day ever!) and my co-workers along with the skyline of downtown Singapore, the Merlion, and the Esplanade (aka The Durian).  There is even a picture of the Singapore Flyer.

Orchard Road

20090425 Singapore 104 Orchard Road is a major shopping area in Singapore. It has several large malls all right next to each other, plus stores along the street itself. All the stores are high-end, fancy stores like Louis Vuitton and Burberry, and lots of boutiques.

Purvi and I decided to go down and see what all the fuss is about. Saturday night the stores all stay open until 23:00, so we ate dinner and then went up and down the street window shopping. We stopped at a stall that sold fresh juice. I had a slush with mango and dragon fruit – delicious! We also found a sweet shop. Not at all like what we have in the US! The lady behind the counter was quite helpful. She helped us pick out some things to try. I had a candy made of red bean and sticky rice. I also had a sticky rice and coconut candy. We had a great time walking up and down the street, peaking into the shops and people watching!

Singapore Botanic Gardens

20090425 Singapore 017 Saturday I went to the Singapore Botanic Gardens.  It is very large, and it is free to get in!  There are trees, fountains and flowers all over the garden.  There are also benches and picnic areas.  There were families relaxing on the lawns, kids playing, people out for a jog.  The garden also had an open air theatre where the symphony performs.
20090425 Singapore 005 My first stop was the rainforest walk.  I immediately saw a lizard sunning himself.  He had a very small patch of sun, just big enough for his body.  He did not want to move, but he was annoyed by my approach.  It was clearly a struggle – in the end he did run and hide, but not before I got a couple of pictures.  I am sure he was back as soon as I walked away.
20090425 Singapore 069 The Singapore National Orchid Garden is located within the larger Botanic Garden.  I had heard great things about the Orchid Garden, and very much wanted to see it.  There is a five dollar fee to enter the Orchid Garden, but it was well worth it!  The orchids are amazing.  The volume of flowers all in one place was staggering.  Orchids often grow on trees – not parasites, I learned, because they do not take any nutrition from the tree.  They simply perch on the tree in order to get better access to rain water and the nutrients carried in the water.  Their roots pick up the water that runs down the bark of the tree they are holding onto.  There were many orchids growing on plumeria trees.  I found this especially wonderful since I love plumerias.
20090425 Singapore 049 It is difficult to describe how many different orchids there were to look at. Everywhere I looked there was another type of orchid growing. There were two special buildings with conditions arranged to meet the needs of particular orchids: The Mist House, and the Cool House. The mist house, as you might imagine, has fine mist sprayed everywhere (It does wonders for your hair, I am sure. I am glad I had a hat on!). The Cool House is climate controlled to simulate the cool air in the mountains. It was so refreshing to walk into that space! I talked with a nice man from Goa, India, who was on holiday with his family. He was good enough to take my picture. If you look at the picture inside the green house, you can see him – his back is to the camera.
20090425 Singapore 094 The orchids come is all sizes, shapes and colors. There are some tiny orchids, and some large ones. One really pretty purple orchid was almost big as my palm! The National Orchid Garden is very active in breeding and creating new hybrid orchids. They get to name all the new orchids they create. Sometimes they name them for famous people, and dignitaries that visit the garden. I saw orchids that were named for the Kings and Ministers of countries from all over the world. There was an orchid named for Princess Diana. There was even one named for Ricky Martin; I was a bit sad because it was not blooming, so still do not know what the Ricky Martin orchid looks like!
20090425 Singapore 084 Right at the end of my walk through the orchid garden I ran into a most cheeky lizard. Unlike the lizard I met previously, this guy was not the least bit shy. He came right out onto the tree trunk and was showing off. It seemed like he was quite proud of living with all the orchids and wanted to let everyone know! I got a good close-up picture of him, but I also got this one that includes an orchid. Interestingly, if you can look in the bottom left corner of the picture, you just can see some Mexican Heather. They have the Mexican Heather planted as border and filler all over the orchid garden. I was quite proud that the only plant that I have purposefully plated in my own garden made an appearance in such a prestigious garden!

Little India

06 Mustafa looking down

Tonight Karen, Purvi, and I went out to dinner at  a restaurant called Muthu’s Curry in Little India.  Little India is the area of Singapore where many people who are originally from India live.  Purvi said that it really sounds and looks quite a bit like India.  One of the famous stores in Little India is Mustafa.  It is a huge shopping complex that is open 24 hours.  They have some of everything.  There is so much stuff, and so many people crammed into a very small space!  The pictures below do not nearly capture the scale of the place.  One thing that was very impressive was the jewelry.  There was more gold than I have ever seen in one place!  When Sujata was planning her wedding, we went to the Indian stores in Houston, and I was impressed there by the huge volume of jewelry, but that was nothing, maybe an eighth, of what I saw in one store at Mustafa.  I did not get any pictures of the jewelry because they frown on casing the joint ;-)

02 Karen with her Kingfisher

We had an absolutely fabulous time.  Dinner was delicious, and we chatted and laughed the whole time.  Karen ordered a Kingfisher beer, and the bottle turned out to be bigger than she expected.  We laughed and I reminded her of the time we were in Cambridge together and a co-worker gave her a hard time about her beer, saying, “… and a lady wouldn’t have ordered a whole pint.”  I suggested that a lady would not have ordered a giant bottle of Kingfisher either, but, lady or not, Karen was a fantastic host and tour guide for the evening!

P.S. The kid with the cell phone in the picture below was standing right behind Karen while we ate dinner.  His family was eating at the table behind ours.  He was so engrossed in his game, and I found him to be quite charming.  He did not even notice me taking his picture.

Working in Singapore

Training Team I am here in Singapore to observe a training class, and sign off the two Sinapore trainers to be mentors to Purvi, who is new to teaching this particular class, and any future trainers.  The AsiaPac training team is made up of a great group of ladies.  Karen is the training manager.  The training coordinator is named Sally.  She is super organized, and keeps everything moving efficiently.  The trainers in this office are Katrina and Esther, and they have been a pleasure to work with.  Purvi is the trainer from Mumbai, India.  She has travelled here to teach the training class, and she is doing a great job so far.
Singapore Class Picture The class participants come from several different offices across the Asia/Pacific region.  We have four people from Australia, three from Taiwan, two from the Phillipines, and one from Singapore.  They have all been good participants and are picking up the information we are teaching quickly.
Karen and Esther The office itself is much bigger than I expected.  There are three large areas with cubes, plus offices and conference rooms.  The training room is well appointed, with good tables, comfortable chairs, a projector and screen, wireless internet, refreshments counter, and marker boards. The office is fairly far from the hotel, so the participants, Purvi and I ride together in a van from the hotel to the office. The commute takes about forty-five minutes, which is really tough for me, since I am used to a commute down my hall that takes fifteen seconds! I suppose that is a small price to pay for working in Singapore for a couple of weeks!

Ambrosia

DSC02348 Wednesday night Purvi and I walked down the street that is across from our hote looking for a place to get some dinner.  This street has many restaurants, so it is really just a matter of choosing what you want.  All the places have callers outside to tempt you into their restaurant.  One caller was particularly persuasive, and we walked over to look at the menu.  It was mediteranean food of all sorts.  It looked good, so we told the girl we would like a table.
DSC02346 We started to walk into the restaurant immediately behind her, but she told us to follow her, that there was a different dining room.  This struck us as a bit odd, but we followed her anyway.  She took us to a stairway.  We took off our shoes and went upstairs.  It turned out it was a large carpeted room with low tables and cushions – we got to recline while we were eating!  All the tables were near windows, so we could look out over the street. The atmosphere was so relaxing, and the food was good too! I am so glad we took the chance on the restaurant, which is aptly named, Ambrosia, divine pleasures.

Walk around Singapore

01 Playing frisbee and soccer in the park

I went shopping and took a walk on Sunday.  I took the bus to the People’s Park Centre.  I really like taking public transportation in a new city.  It helps you get the feel of the place and the people – not just the tourist stuff!  People’s Park Centre was my destination because they have a craft store called Golden Dragon Store that sells yarn and knitting supplies.  Are you going to have a heart attack and die from NOT surprise?

The shopping center also has lots of food stands, so I got some supper – I asked the man behind the counter what he recommended that included pork.  He gave me a plate filled with what looked like smoked pork (it had that pink ring around the edge), and some other type of pork that I could not recognize, but it was super fatty, and the fat had been cooked to crispy.  The meal also came with rice, cucumber and a hot broth that I think was fish based.  Awesome!

I decided to walk back to get some exercise, and see the city up close.  I walked trough Hong Lim Park, over the Singapore River, past the Parliament building, along side St. Andrew’s Cathedral, and up Beach Street back to my hotel.


View 20090419 Singapore Walk in a larger map

15 Plumeria flower There were plants and flowers everywhere, but my favorite were the plumeria trees.  They are small as trees go, but HUGE as plumerias go!  They lined about two blocks of the end of my walk, and the fragrance was fantastic!

Trip to Singapore

20090419 Immigration plaza

I arrived in Singapore a few hours ago. I just finished unpacking and getting cleaned up.  There was no way I was going to bed without a shower after 32 hours of travel!

I seem to have arrived with everything I need, and despite the length of the trip, it was mostly uneventful.  Singapore Airlines is wonderful.  The flight attendants are very kind, and everyone was super helpful and smiled each time they spoke with me.

I had a really long lay over in LAX, which is possibly the strangest airport known to man!  Please note that there are no pictures of LAX – that is not an oversight!  The international terminal is under construction, so the area where the gates are resembles a dungeon.  It is dark, croweded and there are no shops.  I couldn’t even buy a bottle of water!  Happily the area before security has places to buy food and internet access, so I was able to get some work done before going through security.  The other funny thing is that the plane does not park anywhere near the gate – they use buses to take everyone out to the airplane.

The flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo was not very crowded.  I had a window seat, and the guy who had the seat next to me moved to an empty row, so I had the row to myself.  I was able to spread out and get as comfortable as possible.  Joey had added a bunch of new pod casts and music to my iPod, so i had plenty to keep me entertained.

We flew into Tokyo as the sun was setting.  The view was pretty, but I could not really see any details.  My layover in Tokyo consisted of packing up my stuff, leaving the plane, having my passport checked, going through security, walking in a circle back to the other side of the gate that we had disembarked from, and re-boarding the same plane!  The whole thing took 25 minutes.  I was greatful to do something different and stretch my legs, but I really wish I could have spent some time in Japan!

The plane filled up for the Tokyo to Singapore leg of the trip, so I had to share my row, but it was still a pleasant flight.  What is amazing is that it was another seven hours of flying!

The Singapore airport is amazingly beautiful – huge, and everything is sparkling.  We walked a long way down the concourse, and finally got to the immigration plaza.  The space is extremely impressive, especially after having spent so many hours in small spaces.

I had no trouble getting through immigration, which was possibly the most efficient I have ever seen.  I picked up my bags and went through customs – also very quick and painless.  I had been worried that the booths for changing money would be closed because we arrived at 02:20, but they were open, so I am all set with Singapore dollars.  I grabbed a taxi and had a pleasant 10 minute ride to the hotel.  Checked in, and began getting settled.  The room is very simple and all the furniture is functional and has a very clean, crisp aesthetic – you can see it in the pictures.  I made myself a pot of tea, and took a bath, and I feel 100% refreshed.  I am going to get a bit of sleep, and wake up around 10:00.

A word on the first picture below, with the oil heater and the sign about bergamot.  It seems that bergamot is the fragrance of choice in this hotel, they have these little pots everywhere, which makes sense because bergamot is native to Southeast Asia.  Bergamot is a citrus fruit with an orangey smell, but the color and size of a lime, with a slightly bulging bottom, like a pear (don’t judge, it happens to the best of us).  Bergamot is the flavor that is added to black tea to make Earl Grey [HOT].  Joey has been on a kick about bergamot and how it is the basis of most perfumes throughout history, as well as featuring heavily in many modern perfumes.   He even researched getting a bergamot tree for our backyard.  He was foiled because it gets too cold in Texas – go figure.  I just couldn’t resist taking the picture!

Singapore is thirteen hours ahead of Austin time wise.  So from your perspective, I am in the future – that concept just never gets old or less amusing to me.  16:00 Central Daylight Time on 18 April 2009 is the same as 05:00 Singapore time on 19 April 2009.

I will not be using my cell phone, so if you want to reach me, send an e-mail, or look for me on Google Talk.