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Taiwan / Hong Kong / Singapore - March/April 2011 - Page 5

Day 13 - Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Mostly closed until late afternoon

I decided to just wander around at about 9am. Nothing was open. Even regular coffee shops seemed closed.
It was already pretty hot, and most of the people out and about were fellow tourists like myself, most of them retirement age getting about in very little clothing.
Not a good look.

I wandered up to Orchard road, and it is indeed one continuous upmarket shopping mall. The stores are mostly those that we have in Australia, but there was an Isetan And Takashimaya, however they were shut.
All food places except for mcdonalds were also shut (now 11am), but I didnt want to eat at mcdonalds.
Instead I got on the train and went to Geylang road, apparently the muslim area.
Its low rise old fashion shops here, mostly chinese herbal stores and some traditional coffee houses, there were a couple of mosques but nothing too fancy looking.

Singapore is very much an after dark destination, most likely due to the high temperature and humidity, I will have to try not to be in bed by 10pm!

The view near my hotel, very wide clean streets with flowers everywhere.

This is the parliament, quite small and concrete. Yes I was struggling to find things to take photos of.

An example of a mega mall on Orchard Road. Anglo Saxon woman heaven. Only things dont seem any cheaper to me than they are in Australia.

Also on orchard road are a number of sex shops. I didnt expect this in the totalitarian moral cleansing state that we hear about.
The name of this establishment is pretty disturbing.

This is a regular style apartment block. If you compare them to Hong Kong and Taiwan, you will notice they paint them here so they dont end up that black color.

Example of the older style storefronts on Geylang road.

A mosque.

This place is very modern looking, but was abandoned. Didnt seem to be any businesses in there.

Heres my lunch. I wanted something with lots of chilli, so thought green curry chicken would be good since I am near Thailand.
It was ok, but not enough chilli, so I added lots more as you can see.
The price of about $3 was good though, considering it was a nicer kopitaam with air conditioning indoors. They even had a mexican place.

Little India

This evening I decided to head out to the Indian part of Singapore, called as you have probably guessed by now, Little India.
As far as India outside of India goes, I believe this is as Indian as you can get. Lots of the Indian people here are in traditional dress, with huge moustaches, lined up at the remittance banks, and having heated arguments about calling cards.
I saw a few situations I thought would turn into fights, one guy was trying to return some jewellery because I think the gold paint had come off revealing the lead.
Someone else was arguing about a cell phone, it was fantastic, everyone seemed angry about something.

You know once you are in little india, the footpaths dissapear completely, crap is piled up out the front of all the shops, restaurants have huge smelly rubbish bins in the eating area, cars are parked any which way, delivery trucks come around the corner at full speed up the wrong side of the road with the horn going.
All stores have reclaimed the footpath as their own, and then theres whats normally a drain, but stores in Little India have placed some wooden boards over the drain to extend their shops a bit further, only every now and then the wooden board is broken, which is quite treachorous.

I had a number of people chase me wanting to sell me things, including a watch, solid gold best pure quality, tailored suits, and my favourite was 'hi sir, welcome sir, dinner sir, tandoori chicken sir, just like Sydney, New York, London sir'. I admired this guys attempt at guessing my city or at least my continent.

Nearby is the enormous Mustafa centre, its quite amazing. Its a department store like no other. Its enormous and follows no logical plan, extra bits are added on, some floors come to a dead end for no reason, theres often only a way up not down, or down not up. Stuff is piled to the roof, but not just any old stuff, if you ever wondered what happened to fashions from about 15 years ago, they are here in bulk.
On basement level 2, down the back, is the I.T. section. Sure they have ipads, and a million ipad cases, but they also have minidisc recorders, dcc tape recorders, super audio cd players, laserdisc players, cassette answering machines etc.

My dinner experience was great, but I will tell that with the pictures below.

A typical street in little india, lots of shops selling strings of flowers and packs of 100 multicolored plastic bangles.

The temple is fairly impressive, very colorful.

I didnt go inside as you have to remove your shoes, but it was just as colorful inside. I am never sure if you are allowed to take photos or not, so I just do.

Nearby and a guru/yoga master was going to give a speech, the guys in here seemed fairly annoyed at my photography.

This was great, if you look closely you can see a small tv. My photo doesnt depict it but theres at least 100 guys standing around watching this tv, which is showing an Indian soap opera. They were all laughing a lot.
The store has set up a badly distorted loudspeaker system to accommodate the viewers.

The shopfronts along here look a lot like a London street.

Heres where I had my dinner. It was a 'pure vegetarian' restaurant.
Not only did I get food, but I got a show as well!

I arrive and say 'table for 1 please?' and get blank stares from all and sundry.
So I ask, can I eat here?Eventually a guy comes out of the kitchen and exclaims 'WELCOME SIR! WE ARE PLEASED TO BE SERVING YOU, YES! YESSSS!' and showed me a seat and gave me a menu.
So I tried to order, and the guy with the notepad answers yes sir to everything, and writes it down.
Next thing a waitress comes over to take my order, I told her I have already ordered, she says the other guy couldnt understand me, so I order again, she writes it down.
Then someone not even from the store comes over, I have been pointing at items on the English only menu whilst saying the names through all of this, and its common indian dishes too, like Palak Paneer.
This guy speaks good English and tells me theres some confusion with my order, so I tell him again.

To be continued with the next photo......

......So in the meantime, a guy comes into the store area (its actually an outdoor area) and starts giving a presentation about calling cards hes trying to sell.
This goes on for some time, but no ones buying.
Next thing another guy comes out from the kitchen with a cup of tea and puts it in front of me, I said I didnt order tea, he walked off, I assume its free and take a sip, plain tea. Next thing he comes back again and takes it away!

Food comes out to my table, its not mine, its left for a while, another table points and tells the waiter something in Hindi, he retrieves the food and gives it to them.
This happened twice more! On the third time I cracked up laughing.
Next someone tried to order sweets, and they tried to box them in some fancy box, and they were all stuck together, like they hadnt moved for days, the potential customer was put off by this and an argument ensued, he left.

Then a waiter spilled a glass of water over another customer.

Eventually my food came out, to the wrong table, they looked confused and argued, but it was left on their table, so I got up and got it, they thanked me in English!

So it was a fantastic adventure, and the food was actually very nice!

No durian on the train.

Hooray for pollution free skies!

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Day 13 - Thursday, 7 April 2011

The zoo is mostly, closed

Today I went to the Singapore zoo, this is quite a challenge, surprisingly.
There are probably better ways to get there such as taxi or hiring a car, but I decided to take the advice of the zoos website and take the train and then bus.
This involves changing trains twice, not a drama they come every couple of minutes.
The main bus to the zoo however, comes once every hour, and I had 30 minutes to wait.
Once you are on the bus, its a good 45 minute ride from the nearest train station, and the route stops in many places where no one gets on or off, until it gets to the zoo where everyone gets off.

I find this quite surprising, the zoo is rated as singapores second most visited attraction after the shopping. I would have expected special zoo trains or busses.

The entrance is quite impressive looking, it really is set in a rainforest, lots of water surrounding it and I saw wild monkeys on the roadside from the bus window.

The zoo cost about $15 Australian, which is pretty good, it is however, mostly closed.
There are no pandas, the rhinos exhibit is shut, whole new sections are listed as coming in 2012, they have 3 shows like seaworld, one of them wasnt running.
The grounds are very nice, but they do try and sell you lots of things like train rides, teddy bears, boat rides, and entry to the kids zoo is an additional fee.

Also, the night safari is infact another closed part of the zoo they only open at night, I think some of the exhibits are bordered by both. This also seems like a bit of a scam, as the night safari costs the same as the zoo again. I wont be going.

I have heard lots about how awesome the Singapore zoo is, but I could hardly see any animals for the forest, or because the things were closed or being built. The Taipei zoo was much much better. I am now all zoo'ed out.

In other news, I am incredibly tired, I think I have dengue fever or Japanese radioactive encephylitus, I have no symptoms other than tired so who knows!

I sat on this bus for a long time, and waited for it in both directions for a long time, so I took a photo.

Heres a couple of white tigers, they are a long way away and never moved. I couldnt even find the leopards, cheaters or regular tigers in their enclosures. Sorry!

Some sort of monkey with an ass problem.

This is one of the live shows, it was like the wiggles in that one of the elephants pretends to be asleep for the whole show whilst everyone tries to wake him up, including the other elephants.
In the end they spray water on him from their trunks and he wakes up.
Children were beyond excitement.

This is where the other show is staged, called the rainforest strikes back.
Now...this was super crappy. The premise is a land developer wants to cut down the forest and build a shopping mall. Various 'natives' of the forest (singaporeans dressed in tribal dress), are at first fooled by the developer, who offers them potato chips as an example of the good things the shopping centre will provide.
The developer at first struggles in the forest, by stepping in elephant crap of course. The show had been going 30 minutes and the only animal I saw was a snake around the narrators neck.
Most people in attendance, me included, were leaving by this point. It was also hot as hell under that sail, much hotter than outside in the sun.

This is my new favourite drink, I took this photo during the above show whilst I was waiting for something to happen.

The grounds are the best thing about the zoo, heres a shot of the lake and the forest.

Lions at full zoom.

A giraffe, just one. Taipei had like 15 of them running around.

And heres a photo of everything coming in 2012, including polar bears, pandas, white rhinos etc.

Went out to dinner

This will be a bit of a weak short update.
I actually met someone who I used to work with in Sydney 5 years ago, which was fun and exciting.
But since I spent a long time in the restaurant, and a long time arranging the rendevouz, I didnt see much else.

I guess some people are expecting to see photos of us having dinner, sorry you wont, I dont operate that way! No one appears on here except me, ever!

Heres a photo of clarke quay I took whilst waiting on the bridge for my dinner guest.

Dinner was predictably, an Indian buffet. It was pretty good. I wasnt particularly hungry, the bread came out after I was done, so then I had some naan as well.

And then I had some dessert, and some more dessert. The Gulub Jamon was great, but theres something hiding under the fruit that was even nicer, I went back for more pieces of that, Almost 100% butter and sugar with a few spices.

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Day 15 - Friday, 8 April 2011

Din tai fung

This morning I set out to the new area of Singapore called Marina Bay. I guess its not technically new but it has been developed significantly recently.
The Singapore formula 1 grand prix is focused on this area, as is the new casino.
It is of course, not quite finished, like practically everything in Singapore, so when you get off the train, you are in a building site in the middle of nowhere with signs saying no footpath.
Theres the promise of a new station, and a mall that will connect to it is largely complete, but largely empty, yet the train station doesnt exist yet.
So its a bit of a walk past construction sites to the casino area. Surprisingly, this is still under construction as well, despite having been open for a few years now, it is an impressive facility.
I didnt go in the actual casino, I felt underdressed enough just being in the vicinity in the malls etc. as there were clearly a lot of very wealthy people hanging about.
I did however finally get to go to Din tai fung.

Heres where you get off the train

The casino is in the distance, theres a free shuttle bus but it looks like a nice short walk. As you are probably aware, the casino hotel is 3 towers with an island on the roof connecting them.
Theres a forest, pools, restaurants and nightclubs up there on the roof. You can pay $20 to go up and have a look if you want.
At night they shoot lasers across the city from up here.

The nearby mall is deserted. Most shops arent leased yet, however I had read that if you wanted to get into a Din Tai Fung, this is the place to go. I get here soon after 11am and am surprised they are actually open!
I was excited. Despite the early time as I was there it pretty much filled up, mainly with business people, all before 12. As I left there was already a queue. Its a good thing I decided to have lunch at 11am!

Dumplings came first. They were fantastic. The skins seemed very thin, yet strong and soft. They make them in the store, you can watch the chefs (who all go to Taipei to get trained) rolling out the flour etc.
The chef who rolls your flour and forms your dumplings, steams them, and brings them out to the table.

I also had the beef soup, the beef was absolutely superb.

Despite being in a food court, and my meal costing about $13, this is a michelin star rated establishment, as well as being rated in the top 10 restaurants in the world by the new york times. I believe its also the cheapest michelin star restaurant in the world.
I probably wont ever get to go to El bulli or the French laundry, so this could be the only time I ever get to go to such an awarded place...unless I go back tomorrow!

This is the impressive, but very upmarket marina bay sands mall.

It has lots of water running through it, I think theres some special fountains etc. but they were off. Probably not finished!

They arent really as high up close as they appear from afar. Still the roof deck is impressive.

I am almost certain this was a real Ferrari F1 car. There was a guard and all sorts of warnings about not photographing it, so I lingered outside the door until the guard wandered away and took this snap. Up close it was very impressive, lots of strange jagged edges on the aerodynamics.
The other Ferrari stores I have seen have had a formula atlantic/renault/some other lesser formula chassis painted up in Ferrari F1 colors (London, Paris).

Much like the Hong Kong mall from 2 weeks ago, the Singapore mall has an ice skating rink. Its not overly popular.

This is quite a cool pedestrian bridge.

For whatever reason they have constructed a floating sports arena with quite a large stadium along side it. Its a football pitch now, but fake grass. I dont know what they could actually use it for?

OK, one more photo of the casino. The building that looks like a flower is I think, an art gallery.

The city. It all looks very new, none of the buildings look like they were constructed before 2000.

The singapore flyer, I believe its identical to the London eye.
Typically, Australia tried to build one too, in Docklands in Melbourne (a horrible place to be avoided). It took years to construct, they turned it on, it made half a turn and the main bearing seized. They couldnt fix it, and years later they are still trying to work out how to tear it down!

As I had lunch already quite early, I decided to get a snack, a custard cube, a chocolate brownie and the best milk tea ever, this one had both tapioca pearls and grass jelly.


First of all, time for one of my rants.
Getting anywhere in Singapore is difficult. The public transport, signage, under and overpasses etc. are all fantastic.
The problem is, no one understands how to walk.
This is most evident on escelators or even worse, travelators, particulary at the airport.
Also the general speed people walk, is ridiculously slow (might have something to do with the obesity rate multiplied by heat).
Whats happened is, people here drive on the left, much like Hong Kong and Australia and England.
In Hong Kong, people driver on the left, but when walking, pass on the right, and when you stand still on an escelator, you stand on the right, leaving room for people to pass, the Chinese influence won!
In England its the same, the European influence won!
In Australia, its still left and left, not enough Chinese influence.
In Singapore, its about 50/50. And thus its hugely annoying.
Lots of stations have travelators to get between different lines, people get on these and stand still, defeating the purpose, everywhere else in the world they will stand to one side, not here.
If you tried that crap on in Sydney, England, Paris, Tokyo, you would get pushed over and people would cheer!

Next part of my rant, I went back to Orchard road right on dusk. Still dont understand why people like it. The only stores there are the high end of the market, and lots of them. Louis Vutton, Prada, Rolex, Cartier etc each have at least 10 stores each along here. There are no other stores. Do people actually buy stuff from these stores? Lots of people were looking but no one was buying.

So I headed to Harbourfront, to see the water, and also check out the ferries to Indonesia.
The ferry situation was confusing, buying tickets now would get you on a ferry that left in over 3 hours time. If I wanted to go to Indonesia for a half day, this sounds a little bit too difficult.
Nearby to Harbourfront is Sentosa island. I couldnt quite work out if it really is an island, I think its joined on at one end, but that might be man made.

This is the view from my hotel window. Pretty good.

Im here in time for the Taiwan food fair. Isetans 3 stores on Orchard road is running this in a big way with banners everywhere, and the horrible aroma of stinky tofu filling the air.

Also along Orchard road, you get many USA fast food places I have not seen before, such as Wendys. Not the Australian pink wendys that sells ice creams, the full USA one thats more a hamburger place.

Theres also an Orange Julius stand, as mentioned in many movies. I still dont know what it is though.

And Dunkin Donuts is everywhere, not just orchard road. They had it in Taiwan also, and Shenzhen from a previous trip. I dont think they have it in Hong Kong though?
I also saw a Chillis but didnt take a photo, which I think is the place they go to on the U.S. office tv show.

Heres the view at harbourfront. The string of white lights you can sort of see is the cable car to Sentosa island.

I then stumbled onto an outdoor fashion show with a very full arena. I cant work out why they were showing winter fashions though, you could never wear any of it here.

Finally, heres my dinner. It was terrible. Its supposed to be Laksa, but it has no spice flavour at all. It tastes like old fish. Very dissapointing! I couldnt eat it all, the fish had bones even. Who wants bony fish in soup?

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There is now a page 6, the last page, use the nav thing to go there now!


Day 1 - Friday, 25 March 2011
  Adelaide to Melbourne
  Melbourne Airport
  Welcome to Hong Kong
Day 2 - Saturday, 26 March 2011
  Walking around before stuff opens
  Lamma Island
  Mong Kok
Day 3 - Sunday, 27 March 2011
  West Kowloon
  Central, briefly
Day 4 - Monday, 28 March 2011
  Taking it easy
Day 5 - Tuesday, 29 March 2011
  My favourite place in the world
  I missed a flight, sort of!
  Taiwan, eventually I got here
Day 6 - Wednesday, 30 March 2011
  Taipei 101
Day 7 - Thursday, 31 March 2011
  The flower fair and Danshui
  Taiwanese people hate fancy shops
Day 8 - Friday, 1 April 2011
  Zoos, Gondolas and Lingerie
  Shilin Night Market
Day 9 - Saturday, 2 April 2011
  Bullet train to Kaohsiung
  Out and about in Kaohsiung
  Yep, more night markets
Day 10 - Sunday, 3 April 2011
Day 11 - Monday, 4 April 2011
  I ate at mcdonalds
  The hotel and the airport
Day 12 - Tuesday, 5 April 2011
  Transiting Hong Kong
  Singapore is hot
Day 13 - Wednesday, 6 April 2011
  Mostly closed until late afternoon
  Little India
Day 13 - Thursday, 7 April 2011
  The zoo is mostly, closed
  Went out to dinner
Day 15 - Friday, 8 April 2011
  Din tai fung
Day 16 - Saturday, 9 April 2011
  The big storm
Day 17 - Sunday, 10 April 2011
  The longest day
Day 18 - Monday, 11 April 2011
  Home again, briefly