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Hey, blog readers! I notice when I get this blog in my email it only seems to show single pics. Some of the sections of most posts have a slideshow imbedded. Please let me know if you are seeing the slide shows. If you are not, try viewing the blog in your browser. This is easy to do by clicking on the title of the blog in your email.
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Peggy and Corey
As most of you know, Corey spends most of his time in Thailand and I spend much of my time traveling in SE Asia and living between Singapore and Thailand. On a recent weekend spent together we adventured out from our place in Phuket, north to Khao Lak. Two friends of ours, Paul and Mon, tagged along and together we had a grand time. Keep in mind that we are now into rainy season in this part of the world. In the tropics when it rains, it absolutely pours! At least for a few minutes or so at a time. That said, we took this jaunt on motor scooters. Not sure if we should be considered brave, or silly! Turns out either way- we were quite lucky!
This picture is of a beach we stopped at on the way to Khao Lak. It was part of a huge resort that seemed all but closed. It was absolutely gorgeous! Since we were on our motor scooter we took a lot of breaks. Any sign that we could read or any suggestion of something interesting took us on a side trip. This beach was a reward for following our whimsy that day. Khao Lak is about a 3 or 4 hour motorbike ride north of Phuket. It can be done much more quickly, and comfortably in a car, but hey, where's the adventure in that? Right?
Above are some pictures from our way up the coast towards Khao Lak. There were some beautiful beaches and we stopped at the Hot Springs Resort, looking for the hot springs. We didn't find the hot springs. As I mentioned the resort was all but closed. It is slow season, but really? I was so surprised as I would certainly recommend it if someone wants a gorgeous get away. The downside was that is was quite far from anything to do but relax... is that a problem?
Elephant rides are offered in many places in Thailand. I personally am not a fan of this attraction and don't plan to ever partake but the owner of the Full Moon Bar, whose beach we hung out on, said that the elephants used for this local attraction are free ranging at night. That made me feel a little better. They were a great photo opp.
We ultimately stayed at a resort called Brisas in Khao Lak. It was beautiful and since it is low season we got a killer deal. Corey, Paul, Mon and I went for a swim in some pretty significant surf, then relaxed in the pool with drinks before going out for a tasty Thai meal. Such a nice little get away!
Our visit to Khao Lak falls almost 10 years after the huge tsunami that wiped out much of this region and beyond. The SE Asian tsunami struck after a very large earthquake on December 26th, 2004. For Corey and I, it visiting the memorial was a sober reminder that you never know when your time on this earth may come to an end. Not only because of what happened where we now call home, but also because we were supposed to be in Phuket that day years ago. Some of our family and friends may remember hearing about the event from thousands of miles away and becoming very worried about us. Corey's work had taken us to China and we had plans which included a stop over during Christmas for a few days in Phuket. Phuket was hit very hard by the tsunami and no doubt we'd have been staying at the beach. Instead, Corey's project was delayed, and we made a detour to Hong Kong instead, but did not tell anyone about our last minute change. I don't know how many of you watched 'The Impossible'- a movie about a family staying at a beach resort in Khao Lak. While living in Australia I watched this movie alone. It was intense, and I knew it would be very hard to watch realizing we could easily have been there. I cried and thanked God for our timely detour and the chance to do more things on this earth to hopefully make it a better place.
On our way back from Khao Lak, we did hit some rain. We had little rain overcoats in the motor scooter that we put on, and took off... and put on. It was quite funny as it seemed that every time we put them on, the rain stopped. In Thailand, it is very humid even when it's not raining- and hot! The discomfort of sweating in a plastic cover was not appealing and the flapping sounds the jackets made was quite annoying. I'm happy to say our use of the jackets was quite minimal and overall we had a pretty dry trip! Following the "stop when we see something interesting" principle found us at a waterfall, a cute coffee shop, and a lovely temple. Such a great way to travel.
I'm back in Singapore now as this little jaunt was a few weeks ago. Stay tuned, I have one more little side trip to share!
Vesak Day is celebrated by Buddhists in a variety of forms and on slightly different dates across SE Asia and beyond. It is the celebration of the birth, enlightenment, and death of Guatama Buddha. The dates are based on the different Asian calendars and it is usually celebrated in related to the full moon. Wikipedia has a nice summary of Vesak Day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vesak
There are some basic aspects of Vesak Day that I really admire such as bringing happiness to others, especially children, the elderly, and handicapped. Worshippers plan a trip to the temple that day to buy incense, pray and offer flowers in worship. Traditionally animals have been let free on this holiday in a symbolic act of liberation. This is to signify the liberation of those in captivity against their will. Singapore had a government announcement to encourage people to let bugs go as a gesture instead of any other animals. Vesak is also a day where many Buddhists will eat a totally vegetarian diet.
I really like this description of how to celebrate Vesak Day and pay homage to Buddha from Wikipedia:
" Tradition ascribes to the Buddha himself instruction on how to pay him homage. Just before he died, he saw his faithful attendant Ananda, weeping. The Buddha advised him not to weep, but to understand the universal law that all compounded things (including even his own body) must disintegrate. He advised everyone not to cry over the disintegration of the physical body but to regard his teachings (The Dhamma) as their teacher from then on, because only the Dhamma truth is eternal and not subject to the law of change. He also stressed that the way to pay homage to him was not merely by offering flowers, incense, and lights, but by truly and sincerely striving to follow his teachings. This is how Buddhists are expected to celebrate Vesak: to use the opportunity to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to develop their minds, to practise loving-kindness and to bring peace and harmony to humanity."
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.
As you all have figured out by now, I travel, a lot! Mom spent her last week in Singapore with Corey and I. We did as much as we could cram into those few days including the Cable Car that flies from Sentosa to Mt. Faber and a fun day trip over to Pulau Ubin. I would bet you haven't heard of Pulau Ubin unless you've spent more than a few days in Singapore. More on that in a bit.
Corey helped Mom get on her plane home as I had to leave for work in Australia prior to her flight.
I hated to see Mom go but knew she had to get home to enjoy spring in the Tri-Cities. I am sure she has memories to carry her a ways! I hope you all have enjoyed her adventures written here!
If anyone fancies a trip to SE Asia, let us know so we can figure out what country we will be in so you can find us!
As I mentioned, Corey, Mom and I crammed quite a bit into her last week. The cable car that runs between Mt. Faber and Sentosa is fun way to see some of the island. We took the subway to Harbourfront station and from there we flew up to Mt. Faber. After having a snack at the top over the top of a couple of cruise ships, and landed in Sentosa. Sentosa is an island off the southern tip of Singapore that has been turned into a destination. It has hotels, a casino, Universal Studios, beaches, and more. It's a fun place to go for the day. Mom and I spent a day at the beach there a few weeks earlier. See below for that adventure. Here are some pics of our cable car ride and more.
Pulua Ubin lies a short boat ride off the NE corner of Singapore. It's truly a step back in time. Instead of traffic noise, there are crickets. The pace is as fast as you choose to pedal your own bicycle. It's a welcome escape from the city.
The picture to the left is Mom and Corey riding the bumboat over to our island adventure. Getting to this little ferry was a trek in itself, as it was a long bus ride from our apartment. The ferry doesn't have a schedule. It leaves when enough people show up. Luckily, we weren't the only ones looking for a ride. The primitive wooden boats hold about 12-20 people and most are brightly painted. They sputter smoke as they carry you across the small expanse of water between the islands. We were one of a couple groups of tourists joined by some shoppers that had obviously gone over to Singapore to grab some things that likely just aren't obtainable on their small island.
Upon arrival to the island, we rented bicycles and took our time riding along shady roads. It felt a bit like riding in a sauna but the pace was leisurely. We ended our day at one of the seafood restaurants near the wharf where we caught a return ferry back to the mainland after a tasty lunch.
Singapore has an amazing attraction called Gardens by the Bay. It is partially man made and partially real botanic gardens. We didn't take the time to do the entire area, so this remains on my list of things to see.
Recently Mom and I took the train down to watch the nightly light show. It so happened that mother nature added to the beauty.
If you are ever in Singapore, you should definitely take in this amazing spectacle. The evening light show is free and happens twice, in case you also want to catch the light and water show that happens just in front of the other side of the hotel/shoppes. Here are some pics of our fun evening. Enjoy! Just so you can find your way... http://www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en/home.html
Mom made it all the way to Singapore! Thanks to Corey for picking her up at the airport and getting her to our current apartment. He is a champ!
Mom travels so well. She came in about 1:00am and she and Corey made it back to the apartment after 2:00am. Although I did wake up enough to give her a big hug, I had a crazy work day coming up so back to bed I went. When they got to the apartment, Corey took Mom to the roof so she could get a view of Singapore at night. Our rooftop pool area is an amazing place. As you can see from the pic to the left we can view the Singapore Flyer and much of the downtown financial district from our current building. Later the day Mom arrived, I made it home for lunch and Mom was already up and ready to start exploring Singapore! Corey flew back to Thailand and Mom hung out at the pool and walked around the general area.
Over the first weekend I showed Mom how to use an MRT pass. Singapore has an amazing public transport system that includes trains, buses and cabs. It is actually very easy to get around, and if you aren't afraid to walk a little you can see a lot of Singapore on foot (locally we call that using Bus 11). Saturday Mom and I took a walking tour in Little India. It was so much fun! Our tour guide was a local guy named Bernard. His laugh was contagious! He was full of information, from the history of Singapore to current day politics and more. We learned a lot about his home town/country of Singapore and especially the Indian community since that was the focus of the tour. The pictures below are mostly from our Little India Walking Tour.
This lovely building is Raffles Hotel, named after the British founder of the colony in 1819. Up until that time the area had been under the rule of India, Thailand, the Portuguese, Dutch, Malaysia, and more. Singapore gained it's independence in 1965. Much of the city was destroyed during WW2 bombing raids by the Japanese but some very wonderful little neighborhoods remain. I have been lucky enough to find a small apartment in what is called the "Arab Quarter." Mom will help me move this coming weekend. It is an area of mostly renovated shophouses that are clustered around the oldest Mosque in Singapore. Just down the street is a lovely old Catholic church and both Buddhist and Hindu Temples are just a few blocks further. Singapore is a wonderful melting pot of cultures. Mom and I took a Hop on- Hop Off Bus Tour around the city this past Saturday. It was a great way to get your bearings and see the city from an open topped bus! Here are some pics of our adventure.
We saw many of the main landmarks of Singapore and spent some time in Chinatown walking around as well.
Our last stop on Saturday night was down at Marina Bay. We had taken the train to watch the light show, which is well worth the effort, and happened upon the Singapore Jazz Festival. The main stage was right in front of the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. We were standing, elbows over the fence that was keeping the non-paying observers out, and a nice guy asked, "would you want some free tickets to the concert?" Well, anyone that knows me, knows how fast I said, "YES!" He handed us two passes and pointed us in the direction of the entrance. I asked, "Why us?" He answered with a smile and a twinkle in his eye, "Why not?"
What a treat! We relinquished our tickets for RFID bracelets, very Singapore, and were able to catch 3 acts. The first was an amazing singer named Allen Stone. He was from the US and his band was excellent. Mom and I both loved him, his music, and even more so... his vibe. We then were lucky enough to hear James Morrison and his band. He could play about any horn available as well as other instruments. The closing act was none other than than the amazing India Arie! Some of her songs literally brought tears to our eyes as she is one of the most soulful singers I have heard in a long time. What a night!
I've been in Singapore for a almost a month and am very soon moving into an apartment right near Arab Street in Kampong Glam. Work has me put up in a wonderful serviced apartment that I will hate to leave! Mom is actually here as well and the very next blog will be of our adventures.
However, just prior to really getting to work in Singapore I was in Thailand with Corey and we had a grand adventure to Koh Yao Noi. It is a smallish island just east of Phuket. To arrive there you must take a boat (or swim?). There are 2 choices, a fast boat or a slow boat. We chose the fast boat, after all I was with Corey Parker... I now can't remember how much it cost but it wasn't very expensive, about $20 each in USD total to go and return. We rode our motorbike up to the ferry terminal at Bang Rong Pier in NE Phuket. The only negative to the whole wonderful day was that when we returned some monkeys (seriously) had vandalized our motorbike and my helmet. They had basically chewed the lining out of my helmet (my sweat must have been appealing??) and taken a bite out of the seat. Corey was not happy as this motorbike was in prime condition. Anyway, back to the adventure.
Corey had been contacted by an American living there that had heard about some skydiving happening on Phuket. He ended up on Koh Yao Noi as a friend of his had basically homesteaded there with his Thai wife and kids and he lives a good part of the year there, going back and forth to the US to work. He is very interested in pursuing more experience as a skydiver and was hoping for a nearby drop zone. Alas, we are still in the process of getting that going so we went over to meet and hang out. I absolutely loved the vibe of the island! So different from frantic Phuket.
Here are some pics from our day... enjoy! If you ever get a chance to visit us, be sure to take the jaunt over to Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai. Oh and by the way, if you are a rock climber- bonus for you! This island is known for it's rock climbing. Our pals on the island are avid climbers and I'm sure they'd happily show you the sites.
Happy Chinese New Year! This Lunar New Year we enter the year of the Wooden Horse. There were big celebrations going on all over Asia and since we were in Phuket we attended the Chinese New Year celebration down near the Parliament Building. We joined at least a thousand local revelers to watch a live show that was basically a Cirque du Soleil type performance with a Snow White theme (I know, a little strange?). There were acrobats, jugglers, singers and dancers! The entire show was done in Mandarin with Thai subtitles so we were happy we knew the story very well. We do not know the relevance to Snow White, if any... but all in all it was a great spectacle!
I was hoping to see some dancing dragons and such but alas, we didn't. I'm hoping to still do so in Singapore as Chinese New Year Celebrations go on for at least 15 days.
All week there were firecrackers going off around Phuket island. This is one traditional part of the celebration as well as decorations, with red as the dominant color. Both of these traditions are based on an old legend, as they are meant to frighten away the Nian who was a mythical beast- not a nice one either. Singapore was decked out in red before I left to return to Phuket. The night of the big show in Phuket I saw many adults and children dressed in their best red outfits. Pink was also very popular that night.
You will see pics below of Phuket and also of Singapore. Lots of red! Enjoy!
May the year of the horse bring you much health, wealth, and good fortune.
Well, Corey has been in Thailand pretty much full time for over a year. I have finally caught up with him and even remain employed by CareFusion! My new title is Clinical Application Manager- Asia. Basically, I'm doing pretty much the same things as I did in Asia before I relocated but now I'm officially- here. I will be based in Singapore but traveling back and forth to Phuket, Thailand (to hang out with Corey) pretty much weekly, as well as working all over Asia. So, we are now officially transferred out of Australia and living quite near the equator. Pretty exciting stuff! If you are looking for a hot, humid vacation come visit!
This picture is from our recent live aboard dive trip. We spent the 4 nights over Christmas on a boat in the Similan Islands of Thailand. It was a fabulous trip! Kath, our tour leader and the entire crew were amazing! Plus, we had a great group of divers aboard. A few photos are below. The trip started in Chalong, Phuket Island and as we motored out of the harbor the crew set off firecrackers to frighten away any bad spirits or bad luck that may affect our trip. There was also a wonderful banquet and flowers presented on the bow to ask for safe travel and blessings. It must have worked as we had great weather, smooth sailing and beautiful diving. Corey took more of the underwater photos this trip and we were having some equipment challenges. At least I got some fun topside pics. The topography in the Similans is quite unique. Lots of big boulders both above and below the multi-hued water. Our fireworks must have also spooked the whale sharks that had been sighted recently. No worries, Kath took us to her favorite spots and I now can't wait to go back for more.
Before I jump too far ahead to Asia, I have to talk about leaving Australia and it was downright hard to do! I have made friends for life in both Australia and New Zealand. I absolutely will miss everyone and I hope that we meet again, sooner rather than later.
After returning from America, I was basically "homeless." This was a non-issue as many people offered me a place to stay. I house sat for Maree for almost 2 months which was quite an opportunity. Her cute little house was just down the road from where I was living before, so it made getting around easy- I just continued to ride my bike! Then after Maree returned, I bunked at Stephen and Louise Devine's. Living at the Devine's was DEVINE! Louise is a great cook, they love good wine, and have a nice warm pool... what else could anyone ask for. Oh, did I mention they are a lot of fun! Part of the time I was there, it became a bit of a hostel as I roomed with Josie. So much fun and many, many laughs. Thanks for everything Louise and Stephen.
Oh, and just before leaving Australia we took a quick trip to Byron Bay. I LOVE that place! The friends I went with made it extra special. In addition to a lovely trip to Byron, I had party after party to attend. Christmas parties and going away parties. Also squeezed in a couple big dance nights at the Mon Komo and as much yoga as I could... I'm so missing my yoga on the beach and particularly my yogi friends!
I really can't say enough about everyone I love in Australia. The people truly made it feel like home because it is a long way from where I'm from. I miss you already but know I will see you soon! That is why I really couldn't say goodbye, I stuck with "See Ya Latah." Hopefully done in my best Aussie accent.
Corey has become the first person to ever jump a tandem skydive over Phuket. He also was part of another air show and did a solo skydive, landing on Patong Beach, one of the main tourist beaches in Phuket- See below. Stay tuned, Skydiving in Phuket in slowly becoming a reality. In the meantime have a very happy New Year's Celebration where ever you may be. Here's to a happy and healthy 2014- Cheers!
p.s. I have more pictures to load but am out of patience tonight. Keep checking back for more!