Monday, May 31, 2010

Singapore by Night 6.05.2010

Somehow, we just managed to find ourselves at Raffles Hotel to start our night's exploration (no prompting from me, of course).

Raffles Hotel:  From the outside, looking in.

Raffles Hotel opened in an old bungalow facing the beach on 1st December 1887 and expanded steadily during its first few decades under the Armenian Sarkies brothers, so that by the 1920s, it was known as the historic hotel of Singapore.  It survived the deaths of all the Sarkies family, bankruptcy during the Great Depression, the Japanese Occupation (1942-5) and "modernisation" during the 1950s.

In 1989, the hotel closed for two years to be faithfully and elegantly restored to its circa 1915 appearance.  Today it is an international landmark, an icon of travel that, as Somerset Maugham said, "stands for all the fables of the exotic East".

Well, seeing we're here, we might as well go in.

In the Long Bar, Raffles Hotel.

Tradition dictates that you throw your peanut shells on the floor - probably the only place in Singapore where you can throw anything anywhere.  Rattan punkahs overhead slowly beat the breeze. These punkahs would once have been operated by a punkah-wallah (fan man) with a string attached to his finger or toe, but, thankfully, such menial tasks are now performed by electric motors in post-colonial Singapore.

Somewhere just after the turn of the century, Raffles Hotel barman Mr NgiamTong Boon invented a pink cocktail for the colonial ladies – the Singapore Sling. His recipe book was considered so valuable that it was kept locked in a safe.

Since we were there, it seemed silly not to have one.  (Pat had a beer.)

Full of peanuts, but decidedly poorer, we decided the next place to visit was obviously the Fountain of Wealth.  The inward motion of water was meant to bring wealth to Suntec City, the complex where it was located, and it was claimed that visitors, walking around the central base of the fountain three times and touching the water at all times, could acquire some good luck of their own.  We needed quite a bit of luck to find the fountain (even if it is the largest in the world, as claimed in the 1998 Guinness Book of Records), and when we did find it, it was turned off.  Not too sure what sort of luck that was meant to bring us, but at least it was having a laser show, of varying astonishing colours, so it looked pretty.

In the distance we could see the Singapore Flyer, so, still having a bit of energy left, we decided to track it down.  This shouldn't have been too hard - at 165 metres high, it is currently the highest ferris wheel in the world, 30 metres higher than the London Eye.  It was getting quite late, but we felt extremely safe walking around here.  We had to walk through a few construction sites, but we finally arrived.

Here we are apparently having a huge amount of fun on the Singapore Flyer.  A complete rotation of the wheel takes approximately 37 minutes. Initially rotating one way when it opened, its direction was reversed some months later under the advice of Feng Shui masters.

View from the Singapore Flyer.

Below was the aftermath of a rather swish party on the harbourside.

No, the sun wasn't rising when we finally arrived back at our hotel, but it seemed that it did happen quite soon after.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Singapore Zoo Night Safari 5.05.2010

Laura, Paul and Julia had recommended the Singapore Zoo Night Safari to us, so off we went.  We hopped onto a little tram which trundled around the different climatic zones of the zoo, with appropriate animals doing their thing, mainly standing.  The zoo is very well presented, with large ditches rather than fences enclosing the animals, so it looked as though we were right there among them.  They are doing a lot to protect endangered animals.
For the animals' comfort, we couldn't take flash photos during the night safari, which was fair enough, so these cute zebra chairs in the cafeteria were the closest I could get to photographing an animal.

The Garra Rufa fish (Kangal fish, Doctor fish, Nibble fish) is used in health and beauty spas in many parts of the world. The fish nibble on dead skin cells and "supposedly release dithranol (a component of dermatological creams) and also an enzymatic secretion which enhances the skin condition by normalising its pH level thus helping new skin cells regenerate a little faster than usual".

I would have liked a go, but Pat was more interested in catching the last bus back to the city.  So these are not my feet.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dubai: In retrospect 28.05.2010

In the plane, 10,000 ks from Brisbane, I’m thinking back on our whirlwind four days in Dubai.
City of skyscrapers:  View from our hotel.

Burj Khalifa 
Burj Khalifa:  The world’s tallest building.

Dhow cruise on Dubai Creek.

Jumeirah beach
Jumeirah Beach

Ski Dubai
Ski Dubai:  We just looked in the window.


More shopping

Train station
Metro stations like airports.


Arabian coffee
Arabian coffee in the desert.

Pat and Burj Al Arab.

Dubai: Jumeirah Palm Island 26.05.2010

Jumeirah Palm Island is an artificial island built in the shape of a palm tree, with narrow fronds radiating from a central trunk.  Along each “frond” are two rows of buildings, with a street down the middle, so that each building has ocean frontage, or perhaps ocean backage.  At the top of the tree sits the Disney-like Atlantis Hotel.  We took a taxi to the hotel, and then came back to the foot of the tree by the newly completed monorail.
In the absence of being able to take a helicopter ride above the island, or even to be able to go up to the top of the hotel, here is a representation of Jumeirah Palm Island from a mosaic in the monorail station.

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Atlantis Hotel, Jumeirah Palm Island.
This is the view that visitors would have as they approached the hotel by the monorail.  (We were actually leaving when I took this picture.)

The curved streets along Jumeirah Palm Island were called “Fronds”.

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Rich people having fun, Atlantis Hotel.

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View of the Atlantis Hotel from the Monorail station as we waited to go back.  Think pink.

As well as being palm shaped, Jumeirah Palm Island is well palmed.

Rich people having more fun, Atlantis Hotel.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Last day in Dubai: 27.05.2010

After our desert safari the night before, we both slept until 9.30am!  We were planning to indulge ourselves with a hotel breakfast for the last day of our holiday, but this became lunch.

A_Chicken & grape
Chicken and grape salad.  Can you imagine cutting uniformly sized slices of grape!

A_Souk M
Then we went to Souk Madinat Jumeirah, a very upmarket, modern souk.  While (very recently) built in the traditional Arabian style architecture, with the traditional breeze-directing towers (probably for show only), the “souks” contained only the highest quality (and priced) Arabian style goods, plus international brand names.  However, they were beautifully set out and fun for window shopping.

A_canal  A sea-water canal had been constructed through the complex, and we took a 25 minute abra ride around the canal.

The canal wound its way through some luxurious villas.  A couple of entire villas are owned and used by the royal family.  Others are rented out per room to rich tourists, who obviously don’t mind the riff raff like us riding around in abras gawping at them.

The Souk Madinat Jumeirah is next door to Burj Al Abra, the world famous 7 star, sail shaped hotel which is the symbol of Dubai, so glimpses of it could be seen through the palm trees, shining in the afternoon sun.

In love with the Burj Al Abra by now, I dragged Pat along to the public Jumeirah Beach next door to take some more pictures.

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As night fell, the lights came on.  I will spare you all the different combinations of coloured lights I captured.

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The Jumeirah Beach Hotel was also sparkling by now….

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…..and also a nearby mosque under the full moon.  How lucky we have been to visit Dubai!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dubai: Desert Safari 26.05.2010

The desert safari we took was very similar to the one that Bob and I did last year from Abu Dhabi, but Pat hadn’t been to the desert, so off we went.  Our 4WD was an hour late picking us up from our hotel, but it was nice to just sit for a while, and we also got the chance to watch the staff having a fire drill.  Very entertaining, and reminded me of what I was missing at home!
We shared our 4WD (when it came) with a middle aged Chinese couple and the elderly parents of one of them, and drove for about an hour from Dubai into the desert.
A_tyres  Letting down the tyres, ready for dune bashing.

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Dune bashing is an activity which a person (certainly me) should only ever have to undertake once in their lives.  I was filled with a raging frustration as we lurched sickeningly through magnificent dunes I longed to photograph (when my eyes weren’t squeezed tightly shut in terror), annoyance with all the tyre marks these irritating vehicles were carving through the exquisite patterns on the sand, and of course pure fear.  The younger Chinese gentlemen kept crying out “Yes!” when we performed some particularly unpleasant manoeuvre, which I thought was very inconsiderate of him.  At last we stopped, and staggered out.

Looking cheerful, now that dune bashing is over.

Exquisite patterns in the desert sand.

Beautiful sand dunes being carved up by 4WDs.

When we arrived at the desert camp there was camel riding, falcon holding, henna painting, Arabian coffee drinking and a superb buffet under the stars.  Part of the entertainment included this world class whirling dancer.

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Whirling dancer balancing five tambours.

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Whirling dancer with extra skirts and umbrellas.

­A-belly dancer
And of course the obligatory belly dancer.
I would have liked to have stayed for the shisha smoking, but the Chinese people wanted to go home, so I reluctantly agreed.  Perhaps that’s something you should only do once in your life as well…..

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dubai: Dhow cruise on Dubai Creek 25.05.2010

It was interesting that Dubai Creek is about 40 times wider that the Jordan River, and also very clean.  It’s only 14 kilometres long, but a lot of use is made of those 14 kilometres.  I saw a very large fish jumping in it – something I’ve never seen in the Brisbane River.  Apparently an earlier Sheik had the creek widened and deepened – a very wise move, as a great deal of shipping, including importing and exporting goods, occurs here.  It also adds greatly to the beauty of the city.

We had a very relaxing and enjoyable hour’s cruise here.


Twin towers

The reflections in the water from these twin towers are reflecting the late afternoon sun reflecting off the towers.  You can also see a reflection of each tower on the other one.



Here are some water taxis carrying workers home across the creek, with a mosque behind them.  The square towers on the older buildings are an earlier form of air conditioning.  Breeze from any of the four directions the towers faced would be caught and forced down into the building, cooling it quite effectively.  Energy efficient as well!


whitening  Advanced whitening cream for men.  Become fair and handsome.

The grass is always greener, or in this case, whiter.