Friday, 19 April 2013

I asked Astrid what was the date

Debs, I am always checking my tickets. The time; the date; the time the date; over and over, as I did all this week since I woke up from jet lag and general end-of-term overwhelmingness. I went on checking every day in Singapore then today I said to Astrid, "What's the date today?" There was a reply and then I said, "My plane left this morning."

This solved the problem of what to do on the last day. When I finally got the flight to Dubai sorted, the lovely lady from the Emirates said, "Are You a frequent flier?" I told her that actually I was a plane phobic, terrified flier.

Online I booked my other planes from Dubai to Paris, and onto Manchester. And seeing that I had the night in Paris [well, not exactly in Paris], I booked an airport hostel at Charles de Gaulle.

Had a final splash in the family pool.

The Tropical storm started late afternoon. In Singapore you are advised to stay in for storms. Now Astrid was going to drive me to Chengi Airport, and along the big roads. My fear of everything returned. The storm abated a bit; we left at 8.30 ish. I made her come into Chengi with me while I checked in. Astrid tried on some specs. I watchd a calming instalation thing.

We bought some Merlion Snowstorms and a cup of tea.

I wanted to get back home, but I hated leaving.

Turbulence. Terrible. Pit stop in Colombo. Dubai at early hour. Left my suitcase with Left Luggage, took Dubai metro to Jebel Ali. Thought someone had recommended it. Possibly not. Half port, half building site.

Debs, I would have only a few miles away from you! I crossed over to the line back to town, got off at a random stop, walked around for half an hour in unbearable heat, went back to the airport, joined the queues for Flight Whatever to France.

Nice monoglot French lady next me talked me down the descent when I was convinced the engines had stalled [and gave me a chance to speak my favourite foreign language].

At the airport, I somehow or other I blundered onto the shuttle bus, and thanks to helpful fellow travellers found the airport hotel.  Had four and a quarter hours sleep, and headed back for the last lap to Manchester, and the only plane flight that didn't terrify me.

At last, back in the UK, settled down on the train to Barrow-in-Furness. Sadly I live in Leeds, so I got straight off at Manchester Picadilly.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


Friday morning me, Strid and the girls drove to the river and jumped into a little boat for a short cruise up and down the river.

We watched and listened to a platitudinous commentary about the origins of modern day Singapore, and I braced myself for my view of the Merlion, "half-lion, half-fish and wholly ugly" [Rough Guide], guarding the mouth of the Siungapore River.

The commentary also describes, almost mockingly, how people would build bigger buildings than their neighbours in order to win some sort of one-upmanship game.

The Merlion is more hideous than I could have imagined. And it is pictured here. Opposite is a building, nicknamed the Durian, after the local fruit that it resembles, a much classier edifice.



We dock and eat at a pub on the riverside.

Then, as I had safely steered myself home the day before, Astrid allowed me off the  leash again, and off I went into the wondrous Fort Canning Park. The Lighthouse once looked over the river, and gave the alert when ships came in, and the alarm - if infectious diseases were on board. But they built all the modern buildings so tall you can't see the river anymore, even from this high point. One-upmanship, heigh-ho, still with us. No view of the river from here now.

tomb in the middle

Then the spice gardens; and the tomb in the middle; the Singapore Theatre group is erecting its stage for the season, and here in a corner of the park this little graveyard with Germans and Russians and English folk. Out of nowhere.  Delicious.

Digital City

I go to town looking for a piano keyboard for the kids. I find a digital city place, but only three types of keyboard - all too expensive. And this four floors of IT gadgets - unbearable, stressful. Get me out of here.

At last I cross over into Little India. Whereas Chinatown was Chinese selling tak to tourists, here are Indians selling to other Indians. I took this as a vote of confidence and went into a cafe and had a cup of sweet tea with warm milk. Hideous, and yet not hideous. Astrid was right. There is a Hyde Park [Leeds] home from home feel about the place.

Eventually I find Farrer Park MRT station and head for Sengkang. From here it is the 86 again, and back to theirs for one last night. At this point we are blissfully unaware . . . .


Astrid returned me to the wild today and dropped me at the MRT - Singapore's Underground. My task was to get off at Chinatown, buy some tak, and get back on at the same station, and then get an 86 bus back to Seletar.

Which I did.

It seems that London came to Singapore to check out their payment card system, hence the Oyster card, and indeed what a fabulous and straightforward tube system it is.

As recommended by the Rough Guide, I visited the Chinatown Heritage Museum. Good choice. An atmospheric, understated look back at making of modern Singapore and the hardships of the early days.

Chinatown looked colourful, but basically it was tourist ville and tak. I bought some stuff and took the tube back. I got the 86 as ordered, and spent fifteen minutes wondering the heck I was. Aha, Jalan Kayu, made it. That wasn't so difficult after all!

By now Astrid has apporpriated my reading glasses and the ipad! And here is a picture of the papaya tree in their garden, and on the plate, it all cut up and ready to eat. Yummy.

Got a nice picture of a pineapple growing in their garden too. Daniel said they grow like weeds. Gosh! I wish I had weeds like that!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Leaving Nirwana

Well Debs,

Having done nothing on Tuesday, we decide to try out an activity on this: our last morning here in Nirwana. So after breakfast we go for a ride on an elephant. OMG!

Let me explain: When I was about 9 I went with my family and my school chum,  Lindy Clutterbuck to Whipsnade Zoo. Me and Lindy were left alone in the Elephant House. I dared her to climb over the rails and touch the wall between two elephants. She said, "Duffer dares first," as we used to say back in the day.

The keeper went out, I climbed over the rails, ran between the two little circles of concrete that the elephants called home and touched the wall between their two sad little enclosures. I turned to come back and just as I reached the rails, I felt the hot breath of a very angry African elephant on the back of my neck. As I scrambled to safety the keeper came back in and asked what had upset the animals. We played dumb.

 My parents came back with the tickets they had just bought for a ride on an elephant.

(If my mother is reading this blog, can I say sorry now. Didn't feel it appropriate to mention it at the time, for obvious reasons).

Anyway, we reached the Elephant Place in Nirwana. The good news is they are cute little Indian elephants; the bad news is there's no tourist box carrier on top of the animal. The saddle is a purple quilt; for safety you hold onto the shoulders of the driver. ''Grip'' I think is the word needed here. I did try not to.

We took four steps down from the mounting area; I was wondering if it would be possible to go back now after 20 seconds. Ten terrifying minutes later we were back; my legs are locked into position in fear; I was almost stuck there. (you might get the fear with body language in the picture).

spider in web

After that it's Astrid turn for nerves, as she watches her two oldest Smalls cuddle and even kiss a snake.

Back at the resort reception area the band and dancers are greeting another bus load of visitors, and I get some pics.

the pool

Baby monitor

lizard under walkway
gamelan "just for display''

We return to the Pool for one last dip, and then it's the final beautiful baby monitor, scurrying around in the garden just behind the pool

We check out, and bus it back for the ferry terminal, arriving back in Singapore about five. Take a taxi back home and chill out on the stoop, and on the old ipad.

'Monty again

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Loving the Monitor Lizards

squirrel in tree
Today in Nirwana we discovered breakfast. I was in Nirvana, and had two bowls of fruit and two cakes.  After that we went back to the zoo to take pics in better light, swam some more, went back for lunch and Disney and met Monty.

Later we called up at the local Retail Outlet, and enquired about evening meals in the cafe area. "Oh yes, we can do vegetarian, what do you want?" It was at this point that we realised that the dining area was open!

Dining area
snake in glass

Actually I think that that's about it for Wednesday in Indonesia. So enjoy the animals, especially the monitor lizards. They were my highlight of our stay.

Victoria adoring lizard

Monty with tongue out

going to cut down coconuts

I took over fifteen pictures of Monty. Here are just some. [Warning: I found another monitor lizard the next day!]


mouse deer behind fence at night


Jet Lag and more Jet Lag

Day Four (Saturday) disappeared into the same haze that One and Two and Three had. But bobbling around in the pool with the girls was a reviver. Day Four we all went for lunch at local Caffeela and had yummy paratas, after which I abandoned the try-not-to-sleep in the daytime plan.

First sighting of Lizzy 
Astrid and I went for a pub crawl in the evening, after which I slept the best ever but woke up to legs covered in rash, and cold sores finally emerging from the latency. [I know, too much detail!] Astrid diagnosed dehydration I drank lots of water. So Sunday, Stayed inside all day. The unsightly diseases retreated.

At five we went down to the Waterfront for a concert of classical Chinese music. It was interesting but unfamiliar, if you get my drift. Astrid said, "Shall we leave before there's an encore?'' They frisked us for cameras on the way in.

Caught a rock band playing outside as we left. They looked good. Drove back to Jaln Kayu, and stopped for another meal at Cafeela.
the welcoming committee

On Monday we take the ferry to Bin Tan holiday resort and find ourselves at Nirwana Gardens, a sort of Indonesian Butlins. Our chalet is bigger than your average UK back to back, set back from the white sandy beach, at the side of a little lake.

As our coach drove up the dancers and musicians, including a little bit of gamelan, sprang into action. The piano accordion sounded good.

The large complex contains two swimming pools, and several little lakes. I am looking forward to the  monitor lizards and am not disappointed.

Lizzy pausing before taking the plunge

Lizzy, the Monitor Lizard

You might be disappointed, however, Debs, as they (lizards) form the greater part all of all my pictures on this, and next blog. In the afternoon we swim in the pool and then paddle in the sea. The constant flow of ships on the skyline is a clue to the black tar that sticks to our feet, and the black sand in the shallows.

After spotting Lizzy the Monitor Lizard on the other side of the pond, I rush round for some close ups.

In the evening we take a walk by the zoo of rescued animals. The signs all say that they are rescued animals, and wouldn't survive in the wild. The bird above said s/he would take its chances! Below is a preview of next day's lizard.
Monty, the Monitor Lizard