Monday, July 31, 2006

Johor Baru - Malaysia

Just returned from a day trip to one of my favorite places - Johor Baru or JB to the locals. It is just over the causeway from Singapore. Visited our place in Saleng about 30 Km north of JB, which is about 3 Km from Senai Airport. As usual there were a few utility bills to pay and after that we proceeded to Giant Superstore for our shopping. The place was packed as it was a public holiday in Malaysia. The two things the Malaysians like best are to eat and shop. There were children everywhere. Finally all the shopping was done and paid for. The whole lot of shopping only came to RM345 ( approx. 50 GBP ).

We then proceeded to Holiday Inn Plaza another shopping complex. Here we visited out opthalmetrist who fitted a set of new lenses to my broken sunglasses. Dianne my wife had her eyes tested had a new pair of reading glasses prescribed. Total bill came RM100. I bought a few hooky DVD from here at RM6 a piece. Due to the clamp down on pirated DVD, transactions of such DVD had to be behind closed doors. I am glad to see that the price of prirated DVDs have come down due to lesser demand.

At 2 pm we went to Jusco shopping mall at Terbau. Dianne had her hair washed and cut and I just walked around soaking in as much of Malaysia as possible before I had to return to Singapore. Had a drink at my usual Starbucks and at 7.00 pm we returned to Singapore.

It was a good day out of Singapore and I am now in possession of a 2 week Singaporean visa which will allow me to stay here until I leave for London on August 10. Looking forward to leaving Singapore.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Leaving Singapore

Leaving Singapore again in two weeks time. Looking forward to returning to UK and the long warm summer days. I must say I have no regrets leaving Singapore. Two and a half months in this place is just about as much as I can take. The country as a whole is not too bad. It is clean, tidy and orderly. The only downside about the whole place is the people. Singaporeans are certainly not the kind of people I like to be with for too long.

UK has been experiencing some extremely hot weather recently. I understand that there is a hosepipe ban in place. The lawn will certainly be scotched and dry. I hope the fruit trees have survived. Actually I am looking forward to the succulent fruits from the three plum trees I have in the garden.

Another concern of mine is the 100 bottles of wine I have stored in one of the bedrooms upstairs. I hope the hot weather has not damaged them. Wish I had a cool cellar for wine storage in my house.

The next two weeks will be quite busy with last minute dinners or lunches with friends and relatives. I have already put on a few extra kilos during to cruise and trip to KL, so I am dreading this two weeks of more dining out. Must seriously consider a diet and exercise regime when I get to UK.

Between now and our departure to UK we have to make a trip to JB for my Singapore visa extension. I do not mind the day trip to JB. Always enjoy my one day away from Singapore. As I have often said, it is like a breath of fresh air.

Monday, July 24, 2006

One of my favorite cities - Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is one of my favorite cities. After a few weeks in Singapore, anywhere else would be like a breath of fresh air. Although Singapore is neat, clean and orderly, one can only take so much of it. There isn’t anything wrong with Singapore that one can put a finger on, but the Singaporean atmosphere is unique and somehow gets at you after a while. Personally I put it down to the Singaporean mentality - rude and arrogant.

Just the opposite from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it is popularly called, is messy, dirty and noisy. The traffic is always bad and on rainy days the whole city can be a large parking lot. People drive like crazy and I often wonder why there are not many more accidents. It could be because the KL drivers are skillful, albeit rude.

My four days in KL were mostly spent in shopping malls. There are so many of these scattered in and around the city. I was staying at the Boulevard Hotel adjacent to the Mega Mall in Mid Valley. Our stay in KL coincided with the Malaysian Grand Sale. Shopping is good and cheap. Other places visited along our shopping trial were the KLCC, One Utama, Bukit Bintang, Sungei Wang and Lot 10.

KL food is much better than that of Singapore. The choices are greater and in general much cheaper. KL hospitality is much better than what the Singaporeans can provide. Somehow there is always an atmosphere of friendliness and welcome from the people of Malaysia. One does not feel the arrogance of the Singaporean here in KL.

There are many thing that Singapore is more advance than in Malaysia. However, in my book, kind hospitality and friendliness are more important than clean streets and orderly traffic.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Seattle & Inside Passage Cruise to Alaska


Going to Seattle from Singapore via either Tokyo or Taipei, the journey was long and tedious. There are no direct flights to Seattle from Singapore. We took the China Airlines flight out of Singapore to Taipei and then from there another connecting flight to Seattle. Having flown mostly by BA, it is a new experience to be on a China Airlines flight. I must say the on-board services are a notch up from what BA provides. The food during the flight was like any other airlines, unappetizing and tasteless. However, the entertainment on China Airlines is much better than that of BA. All movies are on demand and individual control at each seat acts like the control of a DVD player. You can select and start any movie, pause it, fast forward or rewind. The seats are roomier and all in all a more comfortable flight.

Seattle is a nice city with plenty to see and do. Public transportation within the city limit is free. Like most other American cities the road system within the city is in a grid form, with First Avenue to Eighth Avenue running parallel to the coast and other roads perpendicular to these, forming a grid. This makes it very convenient and easy for the tourists.

Most of Seattle is very hilly. The streets, especially those from the coast running inland into the city are generally very steep, making journey on foot quite exhausting at times.

There are many places to visit in and around Seattle. We purchased a package with five tourist attractions. During our five days before the cruise we visited the Seattle Aquarium, Pacific Science Museum, Museum of Flight, Seattle Zoo and a boat ride in Puget Sound which is the stretch of water fronting Seattle. Seattle is a beautiful city with friendly people. The most interesting place is all of Seattle is the famous Pike Market. Situated in the heart of the city and fronting Puget Sound, it is a place for fresh fish and all other seafood, fresh fruits and flowers. Seattle is also famous for coffee. Starbucks and Seattle Best Coffee houses can be found almost on every block in the city area. Breakfast in Seattle is usually pastries or croissants and a mug of lovely Seattle coffee.

Food in Seattle is pretty standard. Like most American cities, one can dine in fine restaurants serving Oriental cuisine to almost all Western food. However, as salmon is in such abundance in this part of the country, one must try salmon dishes prepared by chefs from different countries. Another must-try is the king crabs. The legs of these crabs are at least 24 inches long and they are delicious. It has been said that the fishermen for these crabs have the most dangerous job in the world. I guess that must be the reason they are so expensive.

The Cruise

Our cruise was on the Dawn Princess, sailing out of Seattle. It was an eight day cruise calling at Jeneau, Katchikan, Skagway and on the return journey we called at Victoria in Canada. Along the cruise we sailed through the Inside Passage. The scenery along the way was spectacular, especially at the glacier. Unfortunately due to the hot weather there were too many floating icebergs near the foot of the glacier, thus preventing our cruise liner from getting too near to the edge of the glacier.

We had the privilege of witnessing whales swimming alongside our cruise ship. They certainly are majestic animals and seeing their magnificence makes one humble and small.

A picture is better than a thousand words. So I am including a few photos to show the beauty of nature at it best and long may it last.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I have.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Alaska - The Last Frontier

It is summer and snow still cover the tops of mountains.

The water is clean and fresh, all from melted snow.

A small piece of ice broken away from the glacier.

Most of this land is still so unspoilt.

The water along the Inside Passage is calm and clean. Dolphins and whales are common sights here. They swim along the cruise ships, usually in the morning and evening.

The air is so clean and fresh. Life here is slow and peaceful.


They called Alaska the Last Frontier because it is still so untouched and unspoilt. The air is clean and the water fresh. This is nature at its best.