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Living in Singapore has truly been an adventure. This weekend Corey came over from Phuket to hang out with me. We rode the MRT to a local attraction we've been wanting to explore- Haw Par Villa.
This interesting (and slightly weird) place was originally known as the Tiger Balm Gardens as it was the brainchild of Aw Boon Haw, the creator of the medicinal salve Tiger Balm.
Aw Boon Haw originally built a villa on the property overlooking the sea for his brother and business partner. Over time the brothers developed the Gardens, a Chinese mythology theme park. It is a wonderful parcel of land landscaped very attractively, but also packed full of well over 1000 statues and dioramas that depict a variety of Chinese myths, primarily with a focus on the merits of Chinese values. This is by far one of the strangest things I've seen in my travels. The entire place was fascinating!
Although the actual villa that was built in 1937 is no longer standing, the old garage that housed the brother's cars remains. By the Chinese horoscope I am a tiger and this car is my idea of a sweet ride.
One of the most intense sections of this quirky park is the Ten Courts of Hell. It is a walk through, built like a cave filled with dioramas depicting the punishments awaiting sinners when they land in hell. Quite sobering!
The last scene reveals that hope should prevail as when you are completed with your torture and punishment you do get to come out the other side and be reborn. A spin of the wheel and your past life determines if you come back as an animal or human and in what circumstance. Here is a slide show of some of the dioramas and more.
On our way home from the Gardens we stopped by Chinatown and visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. The monks were doing prayers at one of the external doorways and we stayed to listen for a few minutes as the sounds are always enchanting.
We also ended up the day with some chow at the Maxwell Hawker Centre.
Corey had not yet been to this famous locale. For those of you unfamiliar with eating in Singapore, the best places to eat are often in a place called a Hawker Centre. These are huge covered buildings with open sides, filled with booths that are basically mini take-away restaurants. There are groups of tables in between rows and rows of booths. These places are ideal for trying new things as you can buy individual dishes from a variety of stalls. A dish usually runs between $3-6 dollars! One of my favorite things to drink in Singapore is the fresh lime juice that is sold at these stalls but often a beer just hits the spot.
Corey has just taken off back to Phuket, I will be seeing him again in a few days as I fly his direction again soon. Stay tuned for more adventures. I head back to the Philippines soon and then off to mainland China.
Last Sunday Corey was out working on a dive boat so took myself on a little adventure. A short walk from where we live in Kathu (a township on Phuket Island) is a motorcycle taxi stand. It's the cheapest way to get around the island if you don't have your own wheels. The motorcycle taxi stands are easy to recognize. There is usually a wooden structure where guys in blue vests are lounging around and multiple motor bikes parked right in front. The sign lists destinations and pricing, in English.
I walked up, pointed to where I wanted to go on the sign and hopped on behind my driver. I'm becoming used to commuting by scooter, whether behind Corey or a local driver. In fact, last night I really went all out and rode "side saddle" behind Corey as I had a skirt on!
Phuket Town is about 20 minutes by scooter away from where we live and is the original town on the island. It is said that less than 10% of all tourists visiting Phuket make it to Phuket Town. There is a section called Old Town and that is where I was headed. Most of you know that old architecture is one of my favorite things.
A blurb from Lonely Planet about Phuket Town: "Long before tourist T-shirts or flip-flops, Phuket was an island of rubber trees, tin mines and cash-hungry merchants. Attracting entrepreneurs from as far away as the Arabian Peninsula, China, India and Portugal, Phuket Town was a colourful blend of cultural influences, cobbled together by tentative compromise and cooperation. Today the city is proof of the island’s historical soul. Wander down streets clogged with Sino-Portuguese architecture housing arty coffee shops, galleries, wonderful inexpensive restaurants and hip little guest houses; peek down alleyways to find Chinese Taoist shrines shrouded in incense smoke.But it’s not just some lost-in-time cultural archive. Bubbling up throughout the emerging Old Town is an infusion of current art, music and food that attract a very hip crowd, both foreign and Thai. Investors have finally caught on that culture, not just slinky beaches and girly bars, is a commodity. Old shophouses and homes, once left to rot, are being bought up and restored, resulting in flash-forward gentrification."
Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thailand/andaman-coast/phuket-town#ixzz2q9NFRxcX
I safely made it to my destination and started walking. I found a very sweet little coffee shop called Kaffe Phuket where I treated myself to a cappucino. It was the best coffee I've had so far on the island besides what we have been making at home. Along my walk I ran into some lovely flowers. The orchid was hanging along with many more, available for purchase and the lotus was in a little fish bowl in front of a shop. Couldn't resist capturing their delicious colors!
I meandered around the streets and found Old Town. See the pictures below. Lady Luck was on my side as it turns out that Sunday evening, starting at 4pm, is Old Town Market night! It was amazing! Food, drinks, and fun things to buy all set up in the center of Thalang Road which is blocked off for the evening. Corey came and joined me there after work. We will definitely be back! Maybe tonight... as it's already Sunday again.
Today Corey and I are going to ride our motorbike down to the south western part of the island and explore that area. More ramblings to be recorded! Stay tuned!
This past week I spent at a medical conference in Hobart, Tasmania. Needless to say, we didn't get much time to play but what little I was able to take in of Hobart, I loved! It is a seaside town, which are always my favorite. There is also a river running through it, a big one. The story of Hobart is an interesting one and I was lucky enough to visit the local museum and a few antique shops in town. Unluckily, I didn't make it to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) which is said to be spectacular. Next time... next time. I do hope to return to see more of this oversized island. Hobart itself is charming, full of art, amazing fresh food-including great coffee, music, and local characters. I must say that a local Hobart accent is almost as tough to decipher as a Northern Queenslander and I'm quite fluent now in Australian, even Kiwi.
I was able to spend a couple of hours wandering through the Salamanca Saturday Market. I only wished I was heading home so I could purchase more gifts and fresh honey. Instead I'm on my way to Singapore so only limited shopping was in the cards. The food, people watching, and chance to listen to local buskers made it well worthwhile.
One night we went to dinner at Maldini's in Salamanca. Yum! If you are in Hobart and hankering for some good Italian, give it a go. In fact, that evening as we were headed to eat, we ran into a free concert being played. The setting was the back wall of Salamanca Courtyard, actually the stone of the cliff behind the square and spirits were high! It was the end of a sunny summer day and everyone was enjoying the evening. See the pictures below. Click on images to see them in full detail.
Did you know that Hobart's ports are one of the main "jump off" points to Antartica? It is really, really far south. I have a strong feeling that I wouldn't like Hobart or Tasmania as much in the winter. However, the few days we were there, the sun was out and the smiles were big. People were lazing about in city parks and eating fish and chips along the docks. Since Tasmania is well within the "roaring 40's" the wind never stopped blowing. For the non-sailor types out there, the 40's refer to the latitude and the roaring refers to the wind. The Sydney to Hobart yacht race is legendary for good reason! The winds alone would make it quite exciting, not to mention the size of waves that are built by consistent strong winds.
The history of Tasmania is a seafaring one and it is evident every where. The air smells of the sea and the brisk wind makes one dream of the hardy souls that populated such places. While still in Portland, OR we were lucky enough to attend an amazing night at the Portland Storytellers Theatre. The reason I bring it up is that the story told that night by Howard himself was of Mawson and the ill fated Antarctic journey that he made. The expedition was ravaged by bad luck and Mawson was lucky to live through the ordeal. There is a monument to this man and the others brave enough to venture towards the land of penguins and ice.
On one of my short outings to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air I traveled up the "Kelly Stairs." The little neighborhood at the top was absolutely delightful! The pictures above are some of the sweet cottages and in particular their welcoming entries. I felt like I had stumbled back in time, possibly across to the UK somewhere...
My last dinner in Hobart was amazing! Fresh shucked oysters and mussels in white wine, garlic, and butter sauce. All topped off with a nice glass of local Sauvignon Blanc and a view of the docks. The seafood in Hobart was spectacular and the wines are excellent. The overall quality of food in Tasmania is stunning. In fact, I will miss the freshness and quality of Australian produce and meats when we head off to the next adventure.
Leaving Tasmania at dawn... off to Singapore for another medical conference! More adventure in store. Stay tuned!
Here is the tale of possibly (but I hope not) a once in a lifetime occurrence that happened to me recently. Before heading off to Fiji, the Simply Yoga tribe held a yard sale. We all donated goods and raised almost $1000 for the Deuba school in Fiji. If you haven't read that blog and seen the pics, take a peek, as it's just below and Fiji was fantastic! We all spent time volunteering at the sale and at it's completion there was an old nautical chart in a broken frame leaning against the outside of the house. It seemed like the perfect canvas for an art project so I added another dollar (that was what it was priced) to the money I'd already spent at the sale and brought it home. You all know I'm a sucker for anything to do with boats and travel.
Upon removal of the frame, I found two old newspapers from "Rhodesia," now Zimbabwe. These were dated 1968 and one was from Christmas that year. On December 25, 1968 an Apollo mission was in progress, and this was the feature on the front page. The papers were intriguing and I actually put them on Ebay thinking they may be worth a few bucks. No bites from Ebay for the newspapers, so on to the art project.
After closer inspection of the chart I realised it was of Captain Cook's journeys so I decided to draw a picture of the Endeavor, his famous ship. I had gotten about this far, see the attached photo (a little further as some of my work is removed already), and one of my Aussie pals dropped by. Louise asked me if I had checked to see how old the chart was; I said it was at least dated 1968 and we took a look at the newspapers. Louise's family had also lived in Africa so the papers were fun to look at together. When Louise left she urged me to check on the age of the chart and I said, "sure, sure Louise" truly thinking that it would amount to nothing. Now we realise that Louise should probably work on Antiques Roadshow.
Lying on the couch that night, watching some brainless TV show, I typed the title of the chart into my iPad. Up pops a webpage with almost the same map, dated 1785, being sold for $3500. I bolted straight up on the couch and my stomach did some flip flops. I jumped up, turned on the lights, and looked at the chart... oops! All of a sudden the great idea of using this old map as a canvas felt like a very, very bad idea. At least I only used pencil! After reviewing multiple Google hits and finding another similar chart that had sold for a few thousand dollars I also found one copy of the same chart from the 1960's for sale- priced at $50. I exhaled a quick sigh of relief. My very next thought was, "how do you tell which ones are old?" I did a little more research and noticed that the older, original maps were a certain size. I measured the map on my table and it matched the older style; the ones worth the big bucks. Oops!
As you can imagine, I was now quite intrigued. I took some pictures of the map and emailed them to two different antique document dealers online. Within 48 hours I had two answers, one from Melbourne Australia and one from California. Both dealers informed me that the map was likely from the late 1700's and of course would be worth much more without the boat. Oops!
At this point I realised I needed to try to find out where it came from. After consulting a few of my yogi pals we came to the realisation that one of our fellow yoginis had donated the map. One day after yoga I let her know and you know what she said? Yep, good guess. "Oops!" and of course, "WOW!"
Last weekend, I drove up the coast to a market where a man was exhibiting old photos, maps, and more. I had gotten his name from the map dealer in Melbourne and I had set up a chance to have our yoga map validated once and for all. I walked through the market with the carefully protected treasure under my arm. It was pouring rain but many dealers were gamely showing their wares. When I found Edwin's stall, he and his wife eagerly but gently unrolled the old paper and he got out his magnifying glass. I found myself holding my breath, hoping it was really old and also hoping is wasn't, since I had admitted to being the idiot who drew on it.
After about a minute of examination, while still bent over the chart with his magnifying glass, Edwin says, "well it's definitely not 20th century." At first thought I figured he meant it's not very old, then he says, "it's definitely from the late 1700's and no later than 1810. OOPS!
(to be continued...)