Beaches

YUM

About three weeks ago, I flew to the Maldives.  After giving my cousin a hug upon arrival, I was treated to coconut juice and then shown to my villa. I definitely experienced a little bit of paradise during my short trip.

I have never been a huge fan of the ‘beach vacation’, but these were some of the nicest beaches that I have ever seen. The idea of a sidewalk here is a white, sand-paved lane (besides the wine cellar I saw in Conrad–they import black sand from New Zealand…because it is smoother), no shoes required.  In total, I visited about 6 different Islands, 3 of which were Resort Islands and 3 of which were local Islands.  I ate some of the most well prepared food ever (TY, Austrian and Scottish executive chefs!). I got to meet some relatives from Israel (the Passovs!). And I got to travel in one of those Talespin planes. Lifelong dream!

Cross dat off the bucket list

It was definitely a trip of firsts.

Found him!

I snorkeled for the first time (I always seem to forget the sunscreen though…sorry dad…); I conversed with Norwegian businessmen about shipping for the first time; I saw a behind the scenes look on how civilization is brought to the remote islands (so cool! Water facility tour, power plant tour. Sewage factory tour….); I saw wine as old as me for the first time; I saw Shakira Live in Concert for the first time (on video, at the local bar, with a mojito of course. I got to explain her amazing ‘hips’ to the Norwegians. Haha it was great). The whole trip was planned and everything was provided for me; I had never been catered to like this before.

The row of villas in the first resort I visited, Meeru

To wrap up my trip (ask me more about my trip, I will tell you personally :)), I took a local tour of Male, the capital city of the Maldives.  This city, the biggest in the country, houses about 100,000 people. That is basically 3X smaller than the suburb I grew up in, crazy.  My tour guide showed me around to the presidential palace, a mosque made entirely from coral, and a fish market.  It was really interesting to see the contrast between the resort Islands and the capital city.  The amenities provided at each are not so comparable.  At the end of the tour, he started discussing his business prospects in the country.  Unfortunately, he said that the owners of the resorts currently try to block middle-class Maldivians (like himself) from entering the business by blocking potential investors (not sure how true it is, but the guy seemed very nice). Therefore, he asked ME about investing…I had to politely decline.  Lol but I did invest in a 10$ T-shirt at his friend’s local souvenir shop!  It was definitely an interesting two hours.

There were fish all over the place

Resort Island

Local Island

My trip was not your typical beach vacation. I did not layout on the beach all day in the comfort of a book and with a drink. Although that was a little bit of a bummer, I had the opportunity to travel to a variety of places and see a variety of things. I only had 3 days in the Maldives (so short! everyone gave me the huh? face when I said I had to leave on Monday night), but had the opportunity to see more than most people could see in a month.  I have to thank my cousin, David, (or cousin once removed if you are a pro Genealogist!) for the great opportunity.  He is an extremely busy person but took time to show me around and plan different outings/tours for me along the way. I enjoyed spending some time with him and owe him big time for the experience. Thank you David!

Me and the Norwegian crew, sitting on some local style benches

After landing back home at 7 am (with a class at 8 am, damn), I was both extremely tired and extremely thankful for the weekend that my cousin provided for me. How many times in my life will I be able to say I went snorkeling off an atoll in the Maldives with the board of directors from a Norwegian company?  A once in a lifetime opportunity!

The underwater restaurant

Some underwater camera action

A local sunset

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Posted in Singapore | 4 Comments

Travel Savvy

My trip to KL was short (left on Friday and flew back Monday night), and I wish I could have stayed longer.  But, before leaving, most people told me that KL could be done in a day. They told me I would get bored quickly. “You are going to Kuala Lumpur for 3+ days? Yuh dumb!?” (Now, this logic never makes sense to me.  The two million people who live there (full time) must find SOMETHING interesting, yuh?)  So prior to leaving, this premonition lowered my expectations; I might become a little bored.  But then again, it’s me. I don’t know how to relax on vacation….. (Lol this truth held up)

With my itinerary set to go for the weekend…our plane arrived an hour late and foiled my Friday night plans.  It turns out, taking a bus from Singapore to KL is cheaper AND faster.  Lesson learned and Friday night we just decided to get settled into KL’s Chinatown, where we were staying.  Our hostel’s mantra was “There are no strangers at Fernloft, only friends,” and it was a cozy place.

With only 4 of the 7 total group members arrived (Zach, Ramy, Justin, and I), we decided to kick off Saturday morning by getting lost. (My fault) In the end, after losing Justin to despair (lol..not really), the three of us finally found the Islamic Arts Museum.  The Museum had a collection of models representing the architectural feats of the Islamic world.  From Medina to Mecca, this was my favorite part of the Museum.  On top of these models, various cultural items from the Islamic world were scattered throughout the beautiful building.  The Islamic religion that is the fastest growing in the world (yahoo answers seems to disagree…) is fascinating to me, and I enjoyed the museum.  Look how tiny this Qur’an is! A whole new meaning to pocket size.

Mini

One of the super cool models

Then, before meeting up with the rest of the group (all 7) for dinner, Ramy and I headed out to walk around the city. We stumbled across Merdeka square that had one of the largest flag poles in the world, walked around little India, and just tried to get a feel for the city.  There was a lot of life in this metropolis that combined old traditions with modern ways of life. But it is important to note, KL, while fascinating, is not a microcosm of Malaysia. Wealth and modernity are not equally distributed.

Ramy and Me at a local Mosque!

Really tall Flag Pole. Malaysian Pride!

Finally, we headed back to Fernloft to meet up with the rest of the group.  All 7 of us were together (the only time we were all together during the trip), and we headed off to dinner in China town with two British, recently-made friends.  One was your typical back-packer who had been journeying from hostel to hostel in Southeast Asia. The other was an ex-lawyer (not a Barrister though), who had become tired of working for the firm.  She had only worked 2-3 years, but seemed to already be tired of working and decided to travel for a year.  I wish I had more time to talk to her, but I never had the chance. She left KL after dinner.

That night, we enjoyed a quick sight-seeing of the Petronas towers at night and a drink at an expatriate lounge.  And the drink I got there was so cool.  Check out dem horns!  I got a spicy concoction.

It was reallyyyyy good. (notice the green horns)

The next day involved a train ride north of town to the popular tourist destination: the Batu caves.  These caves are one of the most popular Hindu destinations outside of India, and they were a marvel to see. After climbing the 274ish stairs, touring around the temples, and taking a dark cave tour of a surrounding area, we washed the rest of the homage down with some Indian food. It was delicious.

Entrance to...the caves

The second part of the day was a little more sad.  But, let me start from the beginning.  So when I was planning this illustrious trip to KL, I did quite a bit of research (I have become quite the travel extrodinaire, no?).  In my research, I found that on Sunday nights a drum circle (I had to check this out right!?) was held at the national monument from 5:30 – 8:30.  Long story short, I showed up and nobody was there. I proceeded to practice my Buddhist poses under the sunset of the KL skyline, alone.  I then sulked home, beaten.  (Lol it actually wasn’t that bad/dramatic, but I was pretty sad that I missed the festivities).

Where is the drum circle!? I must meditate on it...

The last day was a day to myself.  My other travel partners had left or had to study for a killer exam in heat transfer (Ramy and Zach).  I had heard that a bus tour of the city called KL Hop-on Hop-off was a good way to see the sites of the city.  Although I had already been hopping around KL for a solid 2 days, there was still a lot I had yet to see.  Also, I was very tired.

Arcades are apparently a big deal in Malaysia? Who knew. I am with this guy, I will buy one of these machines for MY lunch break

The thought of having someone drive me around all day sounded very promising, and it was an excellent idea.  I got to quickly see the WHOLE city (even if only through a window) in a much quicker AND cheaper way than if I had gotten a taxi to drive me around.  I think I have realized that while planning your own trips and sightseeing escapes is fun and rewarding, there is something to be said in having a tour company do the work for you.  I just sat back and relaxed.  When I wanted to, I got off in search of food and other amenities.  When I wanted to sleep, I just let the bus drive me.

This was so sad (@ the Batu caves)

All in all, the trip had some defeats (missed drum circle and missed this super-cool-oldtime-haionese-chinese-might-be-going-out-of-business-famous café because it was closed), but it also had it’s victories (enjoyable spicy cocktail and a nice Malaysian restaurant that I got to try BECAUSE the other café was closed).  Some parts of trips can be planned and some parts cannot be planned.  I hope that when I return to the States I will at least be a little more of a seasoned, self-sufficient traveler.  Traveling isn’t easy, and there is a lot to learn.

Pre

Post (OMG so good)

KL was a fun trip with fun people.  It is crazy that I only have one and a half months left!  I have been here for 3 months and have already learned/experienced so much.  I’ll be sure to make the most out of the end.

Will

lol no clue what I was trying to do here

Good Group

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Pictures worth 1000 words

Ya, I have been bad again…I am sorry for my delayed posts!

Since posting about Thailand, I have traveled to Kuala Lumpur (KL) and the Maldives. I have also had two tests (one that I did poorly on, yikes) and finished a history project.  In between all of this though, I have still been doing things in good ol’ S’pore.

KL and Maldive posts are coming soon (KL this weekend), but until then, enjoy some of my other pictures from other outings!

I wish I could blog about everything I am doing, but pictures will just have to suffice.

The Bassoon Gang! After the orchestra concert 😀

After concert karaoke party. The Phantom of the Opera performances were fantastic OMG

Last village in Singapore: Kampong Lorong

Soup Tulong....hmmmm bone marrow soup.

Navratri Festival? My host family danced! This is one of their local Hindu temples.

I finally found some Graffiti! (or wall art? might be too organized)...leave it to the Arabs.. Arab Street!

YUM hummus....they knew I was coming, you see that use of W? (also could be a 3 or an M...but it is definitely a W...)

Central Mosque @ Arab Street. Had an interesting conversation with a religious leader here who was previously a christian raised in Ohio

WOW Have you had legit Swiss Fondue? My Swiss friend had some extra Fondue...one of the best meals EVER

Cookin' dat fondue

A great museum that celebrates one of the communities of Singapore

Chimichanga? Is it square? Is that usually how they are cooked?...more Mexican food abroad (it was really good)

The Towers...I probably should stop doing this pose lol. Stay tuned for future post!

Maldives post coming soon (hopefully not in 2012 though)

I will miss all the friends I have made in orchestra

I promise, coming soon!

Miss everyone,

Will

Posted in Singapore | 2 Comments

The … Part II

Side Note:  This is the second part to my post about Thailand! See below post for part 1…at your own risk.

Wat Pho: The Reclining Buddha. It was hugeeeee

So as I mentioned in my previous post, I did have a great time in Thailand.  I enjoyed the country and want to go back.  I really did not give it enough of my time; I have to go back.

Guard at the Grand Palace in Bangkok

On our first day in Bangkok, we decided to walk around, find some food and then walk around Chinatown. After about an hour of walking, we stumbled upon a lone food stand on a somewhat sketchy road.  We knew that it might not have the best food…but we were starving (they also had chicken).  A really sketchy choice turned into a great one.  The woman that we ended up ordering from was extremely nice and served us a local dish (papaya salad) after us gringos ordered the least Thai options.  We sat down, outside, with some locals and enjoyed watching sports and Muay Thai together.  No one here could speak English, and I was sad that I couldn’t communicate with them.  I had so much to ask, but in the end, we only could enjoy each other’s company. Which, I guess, isn’t that bad either.

Finished food at street vendor!

We should invent a machine (Shout out: Ben Pyne) that functions as a translator (with six million forms of communication).  That’d be awesome.

After walking around the hustle and bustle that is Bangkok Chinatown (really, you could walk for hours and not get out of the market.  THEY SOLD EVERYTHING THERE.), we headed back to the train station to meet up with our third travel mate (Sam) and board our sleeper train (better beds than where I usually sleep) to Chiang Mai.  We had KFC for dinner (excuse: nothing else was open?).

One Chinatown street

Must get food/drink in Thailand: Papaya Salad, Pad Thai, Cha-Yen. Or you can only drink coke (this too and this and this, maybe this too…) if you are Zach…

I love Thai milk tea

Our second day in Bangkok (after returning from Chiang Mai): Ladyboy show!  It was like pulling teeth to get Zach to tag along with me, but after his FAMILY convinced him, we were well on our way.  The show was quite entertaining, and you would really be surprised how female these guys look. (Though I am not sure how appropriate the show was for this boy below…).  If you like a good show (or people watching, best people watching I found in Thailand) you can’t miss it.

The show!

Age appropriate?iono (things got a little risqué)

Back to chronological order, Chiang Mai was amazing. Cue elephant ride. I found the people much more laid back and friendly.  The first day, we saw temples, got a Thai massage, and had our feet cleaned….by fish.  It was a relaxing day. Then, the second day of our trip, we went on a trek with a tour guide. In our group were Spaniards, a couple from the Canary Islands, some Canadians, and us Americans.  The tour guide discussed his wedding and some of the Thai traditions.  He was extremely friendly, and I am happy that I had the opportunity to talk to a local  Thai.

Our tour guide

Spaniards and me!

We got mexican food on the last day in Chiang Mai....YUM

All in all,  I had a great time. I only wish I had more time.  On our way out, Zach and I ran into a South African. He was a chef and before moving to the UK to work, decided to take a trip with the money he had saved up.  He had already spent a month in Laos, just finished a month in Thailand, was headed to India for another month, and was going to wrap up his trip with 15 days in Nepal and 15 days in Israel.

Since coming abroad, this seems more like the norm rather than the exception.  I am jealous.  There really is a huge difference between 5 days of traveling and one month, trust me on this one…. When you travel for 5 days it is more like a job. You are a tourist.  You rush from one place to the next, trying to cram everything in, and this can become stressful. You miss out on the feel of the country. However, when you have a month, you can actually LIVE abroad. It really is a big difference. Maybe I will be able to take a trip like that in the future (after saving up some money). I hope so!

Fish massage!

In the sleeper train, Zach is getting sleepy

On your mark, get set, monk! (so many cars lined up at every light, it was a mad dash)

Padi Fields

It was a good trip

Posted in Singapore | 4 Comments

Bangkok Dangerous

Side Note: Warning! This blog post could be elaborated to, Bangkok Dangerous: How I got scammed in a city. However, don’t get me wrong, I loved my trip and have plenty of good things to say. Nevertheless, for a newbie (innocent) traveler, the scamming experience was especially shocking and I must discuss it. But for this reason, I decided to split my Thailand blog into two parts. Second part is currently being written!

…End side note.

Writing essays (1 and 2) is hard (for me). Two lab reports, two essays, and many many words later, I am happy to be done.  I am happy to be back to writing a blog post!  With these posts, I have to worry less about conforming to any structure or sticking to one thesis/idea (though I probably should try to have more focused posts, my bad guys).  After being raised with American writing skills (if you can call my writing skillful…), I am curious to see what advice my Singaporean teachers will offer towards improving my writing. The knife.

But since we have last talked, I have ridden an elephant, participated in some river rafting, had a Thai message, and gorged on some Mexican food (In Thailand, OMG I was impressed). Two Mondays ago, at approximately 4 am, I began my trip to Thailand with fellow confidant Zach Sines.  Our trip was going to be a short one (we could only spend 5 days there), and I knew that.  But, I was determined to get as much out of the experience as possible.

After arriving at the train station in Bangkok (after taking a train from the airport to the train station ), we proceeded to buy our train tickets to Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand where we planned on doing some trekking.  When we approached the ticketing counter, a really nice girl who spoke English walked up to us.  She gave us advice and proceeded to join us at the ticketing counter to help us buy our tickets.  She spoke Thai to the attendant and Voilà! we received our correct tickets.  After thanking her immensely, we began to walk away, ready to take Bangkok by storm (lol this is not at all representative of our experience).  However, she came up to us and asked, “Do you guys want some tourist information?”  Now, my rip-off radar should have been blazing left and right, but I got up at 4 am, ya?! An hour later, we had tickets for a trek and accommodation in Chiang Mai. The lady at tourist information kept saying how we were getting such a deal, etc, etc.  It was the beginning of the trip, and I wasn’t sure how badly we got ripped off at this point. It wasn’t until later that I realized it wasn’t a horrendous amount of Baht.   Still, it never feels good to be lied to by someone who seemed to be so nice!  (look at my innocence!) This was our first morning in Bangkok.

What was even more interesting, though, was the relationship Zach and I formed with the infamous tuk-tuk drivers in Bangkok. Now, in regards to transportation in Bangkok, I had educated myself pretty well.  The tuk-tuk drivers were known scammers (they were really fun to ride in though).  So we tried to avoid them.  However, what we hadn’t prepared for were the strangers that would walk up to us. I am so gullible!

Tuk-Tuk!

A nice Thai woman walked up to us one time when me and Zach were looking for somewhere to dine.  She said that she was an English teacher and taught just up the road.  We carried on a very nice conversation for the next 15 minutes about herself, Thailand and the people. I was so surprised by how nice and informative she was! She won my heart (lol more innocence). Then, she went on to say that we were very very lucky; today was Buddha day.  What this meant was, for governmental, specially subsidized tuk-tuks, we could get almost free transport to some of the famous temples.  After fifteen minutes of conversing with this sweet lady, I had nothing but trust for her.

And we did visit a temple…one temple, then, we went to a ‘sidetracked’ tailor shop (Side Note: Which I actually enjoyed, really. We were hassled by some suit sellers, bargained for prices, tried on some suits and then kindly tried to leave. It was fun.  Zach’s tailor, though, yelled profanities at him at the end of the…negotiations.  These guys really wanted to sell some cheap suits (their English was very good though, no racism intended)).  But, immediately afterwards, our tuk-tuk driver ditched us.  After taking us to the tailor (and receiving his 10 dollar gas coupon), he had no need for us and left. We had no clue where we were and spent a decent amount of time finding our way back to the hostel.

More Tuk-Tuk

Now this didn’t immediately alienate me entirely from our nice English speaking woman until 5 other RANDOM strangers came up to us on the street giving the EXACT same spiel. I still am not angry at the woman, I  think she might have our interest in mind but who knows.  It is like me and Zach were in the twilight zone (not sure if this metaphor works, should probably watch the series).  It seemed like everyone was in on the scheme, and we didn’t know! Of course, we never did end up taking another tuk-tuk, but we both felt kind of sad that all these people were trying to scam us. True, we didn’t lose any money in these scams, just time. Unfortunately, though, our trip was quite short, and time was a precious commodity.

It’s important to note, though, that  if we had more time in Bangkok, this experience wouldn’t have had as much of an impact. But, this experience ended up taking a day…out of our only 2 days in Bangkok (so I am definitely biased!).

Tour group in Chiang Mai and tour guide (I can never keep my eyes open!)

Whew, sorry about that, but I just thought this was so interesting! (Though I am sure it is not as interesting to read) What it boils down to, though, is that this is sometimes the life of a tourist.  After returning back to Singapore from the trip and talking with other exchangers who went elsewhere, they explained a somewhat similar story.  Unfortunately, there are just some people who try to make a quick buck or two off of the foreigner, who can usually afford it. The locals aren’t spiteful about it, and one tuk-tuk driver even apologized to us. It’s not anybody’s fault necessarily.  Nevertheless, as a tourist, you just have to watch out.  Do your research before traveling! Having some price points here and there can’t hurt. Bangkok Dangerous.

I will post soon about the other parts of my trip!

Posted in Singapore | 1 Comment

American Pride

I sit here typing on the eve of my first formal assessment here in Singapore.  I have an essay test tomorrow.  The class is Nation-building in Singapore, and the first reaction I receive when I tell locals I am taking this class is usually one of utter dismay. “Why on earth are you taking that class la(h)!? Stupid foreigner” (just kidding, they don’t say stupid foreigner, but they are freaked out when I tell them I am taking the class). Basically, this class falls under the category of Singapore studies. These Singapore studies classes are required for all NUS students; therefore, they tend to be less popular, especially to the students in the faculties of Science and Engineering. I actually find the class very enjoyable. We discuss all things 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s as related to Singapore’s successful, yet still relatively newly gained, independence. They weren’t an independent state until 1965. Singapore is younger than my mom and dad! (Sorry mom and dad).

We talk about the hegemony of the PAP political system, about the British colonial power and control, about Sir Raffles’s legacy (and that he is referenced in every public noun to be found in Singapore, it’s kinda ridiculous), and about ex-prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s public display of tears after Singapore split with Malaysia (after only two years of unsuccessful marriage). It’s soap opera at its best.  But really, the class is quite interesting. Just cross your fingers that I can somehow compete with the intellectual brawn that is the Singaporean student!

Hedwig!

Unfortunately, school is starting to crack down on me and has limited some of my time. I think my unstable dream world (that I am on vacation) is finally collapsing (I am listening to the inception soundtrack —– > Dream is collapsing! (thank you jasmine)) as I come to the realization that half of the phrase study abroad is, in fact, STUDY :(.  Nevertheless, since we last talked, I have met up with an old friend (#Chirag Gupta), saw 110 species of parakeets (out of the 500+ total species in the world), had a birthday celebration with a local Sikh friend, and made my very own Mid-Autumn festival lantern and accompanying moon cake.  But, with 2 more midterms after the one tomorrow and a couple of lab reports due, I think I might be headed for a boring two weeks…..

Even the penguins at bird park are sad

BUT, before those two weeks arrive, I am headed to Thailand on Monday! The plan is to spend 2 days in Bangkok and another 2 days in Chang Mai, a city in northern Thailand.  I know it is short, but I have orchestra rehearsals (and concerts) on the weekends which leave 5 days of travel during the week (Singapore fall break).  This is my first self-planned trip out of the country, and I am pretty stoked.

Would have been better if this was a stork...

Last Friday, though, I met up with an old drum line buddy who was taking advantage of a long summer vacation to see some family in Delhi and then stopover in Singapore.  After catching up and re-living the glory days, I took him on a crash course tour of some of the sights.  We first checked out the botanical gardens, a seemingly natural enclave until you find out that they artificially breed plants.  It was really weird.  We saw a video of them injecting nutrients into test tubes, growing plants in labs, and doing the whole mad science thing…with orchids. And the garden itself was incredibly organized and clean. As Chirag pointed out, it was almost too clean. “Hey Will, I just ran my hands through some dirt and grungy vegetation…but I think my hands are actually cleaner now…”

I need to work on my mapping skills...

Really, it is almost surreal how clean and structured everything is here.  Singapore is a new city with new buildings and new attractions.  Singapore is NOT like Chicago, where Chirag studies.  Crime and homelessness are virtually non-existent. You can walk almost anywhere at night and never be worried about your safety. It might even be a utopia of sorts. (if being clean and having no crime are ideals to try to obtain.  Some people argue that these pursuits make a city too sterile and underwhelming, making it a utopia gone wrong. To each his own.) Nevertheless, the real question, as Chirag mentioned, is, can it last? Only time will tell.

My buddy Gupta

After that, we hopped around to various places.  We made a short visit to some of the attractions in Chinatown, traveled downtown to see some of the fancy Fullerton hotels and the Merlion Statue, ate at Gluttons Bay hawker center, and walked around the nightlife scene by Clarke Quay.  It was great to chat and catch up with him before he enters his last year of college, and then, who knows. Hopefully our paths will cross again.

Then, I attended a birthday dinner for my Sikh friend the following Sunday and something colossal happened.  My cynical view towards American food culture miraculously transformed into a more positive one (You happy Ben Pyne?).  For those that don’t know, I did not believe that the US had a uniquely ‘American’ food culture.  To me, it was always, “Let’s get French, let’s eat Italian, I think I am feeling Indian, or how about Chinese tonight?” There was never anything that was really American.  Some people even argue over the history of the hamburger. I could have tried to find refuge in the Philly cheese steak or traditional BBQ, but I guess I am just too hard to please. Where is the American tres leches cake!? I remained envious of every other nation’s food history.

Getting some (non American) food

BUT, at this dinner, there were three students who had just returned from a yearlong study abroad experience in the USA. They attended the University of Pennsylvania, and when I asked them what they missed, they stated, “THE FOOD!”  This I couldn’t believe (they must be joking, ya?), so I pestered with more questions. Of course, when I asked what kind of food, they rattled off, The Italian! The Chinese! The French! All of the American food!  When I explained that this is not really American food, one of the dinner mates went on to argue that with American food, it’s the creativity that counts.  Sure, maybe the origin of the food isn’t particular to the continent of North America, but Americans combine, mix, mash, and innovate ways of eating in all of their dishes.  The dishes become kind of uniquely American. This is something that I had never really heard or thought of before, and it gave me a sense of hope.  You find patriotism in the most unexpected places: eating traditional Indian food at my new Sikh friend’s apartment in Singapore.  Who’d a guessed it?

Now, I won’t say that I am completely convinced and have this new sense of diehard food nationalism, but I think I have become at least a little more proud about the culture back home.  We have the cuatro leches cake right? All I am saying, further research must be done.  I’ll get back to you. Still, when a Singaporean argues that she misses the food in America, that says something.  She has all this GREAT food around her!

And on that note….I think I am going to try to write a food post before I head off to Thailand.  I love Singaporean food! (Though I do find myself crawling back to Subway and McDonald’s from time to time. Don’t judge me!)

–Will

YUMMMMMM

Posted in Singapore | 14 Comments

A trip and a Cough (except I didn’t have a cough)

Well, to my dismay, I have failed in the promise I had made at the beginning of this blogging journey. It has been two+ weeks since my last post.  I had started writing this post last Monday, when I returned from my trip from Malacca, Malaysia. However, the sore throat that I brought back with me from my trip turned into a pretty bad case of tonsillitis, and I stayed pretty bed ridden until about…two days ago. (But the different kinds of soup I got to try were ridiculous: red bean, black bean, green bean, lotus flower, other varieties that I forgot the names of and different forms of ramen noodles).  It was really difficult to eat and drink for about five days, but I am just happy to be back and in action.

At first, I didn’t have the best experience with the medical system over here (but this is definitely due to the fact that I am crazy and tried to self-diagnosis myself. Also, it’s due to the fact that I watched 127 Hours during my respite and really freaked myself out about being alone. Foolish move on my part).

After two days of trying to feel better naturally on Monday and Tuesday, I showed up to the University Health Center at 8:30 sharp Wednesday morning. The doctor looked at my throat for 10 seconds and prescribed a low dosage of antibiotics. It was the quickest medical meeting I have ever had, and at first, I was quite happy (though slightly concerned by the rapid diagnosis).  By Friday morning, though, my throat was worse, I sounded like a choked up emotional wreck (my tonsils were touching, I couldn’t help it!), and I returned to the doctor.  Another 20 second meeting, and I was out with a new dosage of stronger antibiotics. I returned home to start reading more about my symptoms and disease. I also read about complications of rheumatic fever and retropharyngeal abscesses (both of which I never had). While it was true that I probably would be just fine if I took the medication, I started thinking of disaster scenarios and returned to the doctor. Have you all seen 127 hours!?

In Singapore, you have to have a referral memo from your general practitioner to be allowed to visit a specialist at a hospital.  Although I probably did not need specialist consultation, I wanted the second option just in case I kept getting worse and worse.  By this point, I was showing signs of a fever, my face was pretty red, and I looked a little disheveled.

Healthiest stray cat I saw in Malacca 😦

I really was feeling quite bad and didn’t know why the medicine wasn’t working. Then a doctor from the local university hospital walked up and asked me to participate in his study about airborne transmission of disease.  He promised to take more time to look at my throat and run a culture.

Two hours later, I was 50 Singapore dollars richer and 100 times more confident in the treatment prescribed by my original doctor.  In the end, I really just wanted someone to talk me through this disease that I had never had (though extremely common) when I was 24 hours away from home and me familia. One day later, I was feeling great. Therefore I pose this questions: was it a medical or psychological cure?

(It was definitely the antibiotics that cured me; I believe in antibiotics).

Malacca

But enough talk about depressing diseases, I want to talk about my trip!

I just got back from a really nice 3 day trip to Malaysia! (I originally wrote this the Monday I returned, a week and a half ago). I traveled about 229 kilometers (only 142 miles) on bus to a city on the western coast of Malaysia, just south of Kuala Lumpur, the capital city.  The Malaysian people were great, my travel companions came from all over the world, and I received my first travel stamp in my passport (besides the one I received for entering Singapore…). But seriously, although the city was touristy, it offered a great first look at Malaysia and was a nice contrast of the quaint with the touristic.

First night in Malacca!

The trip was planned by a group of local students in the Singapore area for the three universities on the island that welcome exchange students into their doors. Besides NUS, which I attend, students from NTU (Nanyang Technological University), and SMU (Singapore Management University and my dad’s Alma matter…) joined in the festivities.  We paid a lump sum about 2 weeks before the event, and left it up to the 7-8 organizers to plan our accommodations and activities. A week before departing, we started hearing that the student organizers brutally overpriced the trip and were just in to make a few bucks themselves. To a certain extent this may be true, but I was completely hands off in all of the planning. And keeping 150+ international students from all different walks of life happy deserves some kind of reward.

Small portion of the HUGE group

The bus ride was pretty short, and playing 20 questions along the way made it shorter. (I had never heard of this game before my travel buddy and friend Zach taught it to me. I lost :/ ) We arrived pretty late on Friday night, and after eating some chicken rice balls (a traditional Malaysian dish) at a WESTERN bistro (which didn’t make sense to me either), we walked to our lodgings.  Now I must say, the two nights + 1 nap that I had in my room has been the best sleep I have gotten in my time abroad.  Compared to my stone stiff mattress in Singapore, the mattress here felt like I was floating. It was great.

Temple close to our Harmony Hostel

The first morning, we participated in a traditional tea ceremony and got a tour of a Chinese historical museum.  As it turns out, Malacca is/was an important spot for trading between the east and the west.

Glad to see Texas getting a good rep....in Malacca

(Before Singapore started dominating trade in the 1800s and ignited a bitter rivalry for the ages – that’s a little dramatic..but somewhat true.) Its location acted as a nice stopping point for Persians and Africans to stop before going east and a great place for Chinese to stop before heading further west.  Thus, Malacca (Melaka) became a trading center itself. In the Museum, we learned all about the great admiral Cheng Ho (he has like 3 other names in Chinese too…it’s really confusing). We learned how he was a great Chinese diplomat, a nice guy, and a eunuch.  Really, the tour guide didn’t want to stop talking about the latter fact. It got to the point of creepiness.

Kelly with a local family

All in all though, the guides and our Malaysian hosts were great.  As Zach put it, “They are a proud and confident people. That’s a great combination.” And it really is.  Everyone was very eager to talk about their history and their past.  Now, of course, this was their job, but they held themselves differently than other tour guides I have had.  I think it is important to take pride in where you are from, and then, to have the confidence to be able to communicate your culture to others.  In the end, you will teach everyone around you about yourself, act as a great ambassador to your culture and your country, as well as learn a lot about others during the mutual conversations you have and relationships that you can build.

A view in Malacca

The rest of the trip was free time and at our leisure (or as our tour guides said – ‘free and easy’ time).  “Alright guys, you all are free and easy. Have fun!”

So for me, this consisted of exploring the relatively small city with some new and old friends.  I met some great new people and spent time with some of the friends that came with.  I ended up hanging out with an Italian, lots of British, two guys from Finland, a bunch of Germans, one or two people from Denmark, a Belgian, a Norwegian, Chinese, a friend from Croatia, and of course Americans (Found some more fellow Longhorns).  Similar to what I mentioned above, I found that learning how to communicate about yourself and where you are from is an extremely important skill to have for the conversations I have had with these individuals (and probably just important in general to whoever you want a build a relationship with).  And for me, it is much easier said than done. I have gotten asked questions that seem simple, but they end up being harder to explain in a concise amount of words (similar to this last paragraph).

The all powerful..duck?

In honesty, one of the great parts about being abroad is getting to meet people from all over the world.  My first notions and goals when studying aboard were: I came here to see Asia, in particular South East Asia.  I had no idea that I was going to have the opportunity to converse with people from ALL around the world.  Now this mainly has meant Europeans for me, but that is still a great opportunity.  It is giving me a new perspective (mainly just bigger perspective) of how I and the US fit into the humongous world. This alone, is an invaluable experience.

Malacca Palace -- birthplace of the soap opera (most dramatic museum I have ever been to)

I would have talked more about the specifics of my Malacca trip, but I think I find that I enjoy writing more about people than activities.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves! (this is more of a cop-out because I am not the best of storytellers…lol as I have told many of you all before).

Getting my Archery on in a local Mall in Malacca, doing the usual

On top of the Malaysia trip, I will list out some things that I have done since due to the fact that I haven’t blogged in FOREVER.

Activities Experienced: Watched 10+ movies while sick, traveled to Arab street during Ramadan celebrations, walked along Sentosa beech, went to the Night Safari, ate some delicious prata with condensed milk at Spize, ate moon cake and made a lantern for the mid-autumn festival, walked alone around little India and surrounding neighborhoods, and took 50 pills of various medications 😀

Kite festival at Marina Bay

Sunset on Sentosa

Mid-Autumn festival draws near!

Temple East of Downtown

stumbled onto an Arts school..really graphic photo collection on display (and the camera in the room followed me the whole time I was looking at the display)

My entrance into Little India...

The Night Safari!

Lights at Night Market during Ramadan

I’ll report back soon! Let me know if there is something you want a blog post about! I have a lot I could write since it has been so long, but only want to write what you want to read.

(I need a better header. Anyone know how to make a header out of normal sized pictures?)

All the best,

Will

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