Sunday, 4 August 2013

Little Mikaly

So now, I am back in England, and, feels a little strange. I have been spending most of my time at home, sorting through stuff and getting everything organized. And I've had this adorable little helper Mikaly. My parents got him last year so I'd never met him, but apparently he quite likes me and is very good at letting me pick him up and carry him around the house! Best of all he likes bags!

Lots and lots of Birds!

Since Sarah wasn't keen on birds, we didn't visit the Bird Park in Singapore, so instead, Pei Yi agreed to let us visit the one in Kuala Lumpur. It wasn't a very far drive, so off we went, to the countryside, where there were great lots of trees! It was like being in a jungle!
There were tons of great birds all around - especially the peacocks, which were everywhere, and certainly not afraid of people! So we were able to go right up to them. I also got to take some photos covered in the brightly coloured parrots - it was certainly a great experience!

Another Chinatown

We also visited the Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur, to have lunch. We had great snacks, as well as some amazing fried dough with a little spice! It was pretty incredible! I filled myself up on the fried dough, and then we wandered around the stalls, as well as all the cool handbag shops! It was another cool trip - one with good food too!

The Top of the Petronas Towers

The Petronas towers are a pretty big deal in Malaysia, and Kuala Lumpur specifically. It is somewhere that everyone who visits Malaysia! The top was pretty exciting - it wasn't as good a view as from the middle (maybe it was just a little tooooooo high!) but they did have lots of models of how it was made and how it was built, as well as some really cool plans on how the Malaysian government is planning to have it a confirmed MEDC country by 2020!
The Petronas organization also has a Formula 1 team, and there was an upcoming grand prix in Singapore, so there was a lot of exitement about that and their new car! Again, we were on a limited time at the top, so we took some pictures on both sides of the tower, and then headed back down in order to take some photos in front of the amazing building! I was so happy that we had actually gotten tickets, because the visit was so worth it!

The Petronas Skybridge

We waited in line for tickets to go to the Petronas Skybridge, for an hour or so. It was really early, and we ended up with tickets for the afternoon in the end. The Skybridge is the cool bridge which hangs between the two huge towers, owned by the Petronas Oil company.
It was an incredible, incredible view. It was so much higher up than the KL Tower, and from there you could see the incredibly shape of the building - it was like a giant star - and it was incredibly cool-ly built! We had the whole thing to our small group, and had great fun taking photos of each other with the bridge behind us! It wasn't long that we got to spend there, before we went all the way up to the top!

Up the hill to Thean Hou temple

We had an entire day of driving, parking, and touring around Kuala Lumpur - it was quite lucky that Pei Yi had a car, and my hotel had free parking spaces! We drove around lots and lots, and the traffic was crazy! One of the cool places we visited was the Thean Hou temple,
which was on top of a huge, huge hill. Thank goodness, this time we had the car! The temple was smaller than I had expected, but it did have some great zodiac animals outside that were huge and very lifelike! All the way at the top - the view was great! It was so bright - the colours were really vivid and not faded at all - it was great for photos, especially in my bright blue dress!

A lovely Palace in KL

We waited in line for Petronas Towers tickets, and were successful, but for the afternoon! So instead, we went to the Palace. The Malaysian royal family is a little different,as the current King is selected from the royal families of the entire country, every 7 years - kind of elected! The palace was really good and we had a great time wandering around the grounds and rooms and taking photos in front of the gates!

A visit to KL Tower

KL Tower was the big observation tower before the Petronas Towers were built. Anyone can pay to go up, so after a great Malaysian traditional dinner, we got there just in time to go up and see it. Its on top of a huge hill (which we climbed all the way up!)and had a great view from the top! I was quite surprised that Kuala Lumpur seemed so dark - but we could see for a really, really long way! It was so nice to see over the city. We parted ways, quite early, because we wanted to get up early to go and get in a line for Petronas Tower tickets!

THE icon of Malaysia

My flight from Singapore was quite quick, and I was met at the airport by a man in traditional costume from the Shangri-La, and he introduced me to my driver. I felt like a pop princess in that car, it even had wi-fi! I was met by a lovely lady who sweeped me up to my heavenly suite, where I had a view of the Petronas Towers. They are INCREDIBLE, and so well lit. I met Pei Yi, who I also went to uni with (but on a different course) and she took me our in her car for a drive around the city.

We finally made it to the Merlion!

One of the biggest things I desperately wanted to do in Singapore was visit the Merlion statue. It is literally the symbol of Singapore. Eileen told me the story about how aparently it represents the creatures they discovered when people came to Singapore, as well as the sea so close around the city. It is basically now, a huge statue in the middle of the bay. We went at night, and took some amazing photos. It was really the highlight of the trip! It was sad that it was the last thing on
our lovely trip in Singapore, but it was also quite fitting that this was how it ended. Sadly, in the morning, we had to leave - Sarah to head back to Japan, Eileen off to work and me on to visit Pei Yi in Malaysia. So sadly, we got into a taxi, and said goodbye to the Merlion, and goodbye to Singapore the next morning - sad, but a little bit closer to being back home.

The Giant Parkview

After wandering the little back streets and going in the second hand clothes shops and a couple little quirky shops, we wandered over to the main area around the bay. I guess I didn't realise that Singapore was small enough to walk everywhere, bu needless to say, I was so glad that we had Eileen with us, as she could walk us everywhere! Along the walk we came across this GIANT apartement building, which was incredibly huge and extravagant looking - like something out of old New York or a Great Gatsby movie!

Arab Street, Singapore

We visited a little temple in little India, and then headed over to the Arab Quarter, which was called Arab Street. We sadly, had already had a little bit of tea and some delicious cakes, so sadly we arrived a bit full to eat all the lovely food there! As the sun was setting, all the restaurants were opening (because of Ramadan) and it looked and smelt amazing! We wandered up and down the main restaurant street, but it was making us quite hungry, so we walked along the back streets, which were full of cute little second hand clothes shops!

A stop at a Temple

While we were walking through Chinatown, we stopped and made a quick cut through through a temple. And a really, pretty temple at that. I'm not quite sure what kind of temple it was, but there were lots of statues, as well as tons and tons of candles. They seemed to be preparing for some
festival, which may have been to do with National Day for Singapore, which was coming up really soon. We had quite a quick stop, as we weren't sure if we were allowed in or not! There didn't seem to be any more tourists in there, and we sure stuck out! We quickly went through to the other side, and Eileen took us to try some traditional Singaporean food! She took us to the place where Gordon Ramsey had visited recently - and competed with this food stall to see who could make it tastier,
and it turns out he lost! So, needless to say, all the noodles and chicken we had were so delicious and yummy! Eileen stood in the queue for us for absolutely ages too - because it was simply just so popular! It was so nice to hang out with her again, and see how much her life has changed since Bristol and how much she misses that city, like I do!

Chinatown in Singapore

One of the awesome things about Singapore is all the different cultural quarters they have within the one city. So we met up with my friend from university again, Eileen, and we headed over to Chinatown. It was so bright and colourful! I always love Chinatowns and Singapore's was no different!
I also loved the bright buildings and the cool shutters. Eileen insisted I also try some durian flavoured things. I was quite scared to try a whole one, so instead I just had one little pancake! I am sorry to say that it was incredibly horrible! But at least I can say that I tried it! Chinatown was full of cute shops selling those cliche Chinese souveniers, and I didn't get anything, but I did enjoy looking in all of the shops at the phone charms and fans.

Singapore River Safari

Singapore has tons of things for tourists to do. Especially in terms of things to do outside, and to do with animals. Actually, after we collected all of our photos from the zoo, and got some Peanut Butter Ben and Jerry's ice cream, we hmmmed and hawwwed over weather to do the river park or not, which was right next door. We had heard from our driver that maybe the park wasn't finished, but we also discovered that the vast majority of the park was open! So, we decided to go ahead, and it was really great!
The park was built in a big circle, with river sections from each part of the world. It was so interesting to know all about the Chinese river delta. In that section, they had a HUGE panda exhibit for their two pandas, whose names I've forgotten. As I never made it to Ueno Zoo, during the time
I lived in Japan, to see the pandas there, I was so excited to get some photos of the pandas, as there was no glass in between you and the pandas, but rather a walkway over their exhibit. One of their pandas was out and eating bamboo at a mile a minute, so I was lucky enough to get great photos!
A bit further along, right at the end, there was a manatee part to the park. And not just one manatee - tons and tons. Mums and babies and they were all so adorable. Since dating Josh, I've become pretty obsessed with manatees - I think they are the cutest!

Polar Bears and Giraffes

The Singapore Zoo is pretty amazing and incredibly huge. It is set in the jungle, and there are big walking distances between all the exhibits. It was such a long walk between them! We could have taken the bus, but we enjoyed wandering through the huge trees and dense jungle.
First, we went to see the polar bears, which have a great complex - it was air conditioned which was incredibly wonderful after being out in the 40 degree heat! The polar bear seemed a bit restless, which was a shame, but we did enjoy seeing his exhibit and seeing the other arctic animals. They even had a wolverine from Michigan! Which is funny, as I have never seen one!

Our Breakfast with the Orangutans

One of the coolest things we did in Singapore was definitely arranging to have breakfast with the orangutangs at Singapore Zoo. We arrived really early, and so were seated right by the orangutangs, where they brought them out a few feet in front of us, with no barriers
between us! The breakfast itself was really yummy and delicious - and much better than our previous days' breakfast of Starbucks! So we had cereal, and waffles and all sorts of good stuff! Then, they let us go up to the orangutangs and take some photos with them - there were little tiny baby ones, as well as some mother oragnutangs too! The zoo is really incredible and they allow the visitors to go right up to the animals and interact with them.
They had some great keepers on hand to answer all our questions and give a nice spiel on what kind of foods that they eat. They also had a couple snakes that you could hold - which I loved too, because I like snakes, as long as they are in a zoo and with a handler! It was a great breakfast and experience and then we headed out to see more of the zoo and the attached river safari park!

Feeding the Elephants

The next morning, after some quick sleep, we headed out very, very early, to the Singapore Zoo. The Singapore Zoo is really incredible and has gotten rave reviews - about how great the animal areas are, as well as how much you can interact with the animals there. We had booked in to have breakfast with the Orangutans,
but while we were waiting, they were having an elephant feeding time - I waited in line with all the little children to feed the elephants some apples and other fruit. It was so fun, and the elephants were really greedy, but it was a great experience because I love elephants, and especially feeding them because they are quite funny how they use their trunks! There were two elephants that we could feed so I stopped and took some photos, and then rushed back to sit down and be ready for breakfast with the cute orangutangs!

The amazing Gardens by the Bay

This place was one of my top things to do on my list for Singapore. We had a Singaporean girl who lived with us in Hagi, and she had said they were really nice at night, so of course I googled them! They are part of the Botanical Gardens, but a seperate,
outdoor thing which is on until really late at night. While they look like giant trees, which are several hundred feet high, they are actually home to lots of little plants along the trunks. And, they are also covered in little LED lights, so in the evening they all glow really obnoxious but beautiful colours! It was simply amazing and defintely one of those "OMG THIS IS CRAZY" moments. But it was a really good place to visit!
We spent quite a long time just sitting and staring at them, which was fine, and we also took lots of pictures, of course, even managing to get this one of Sarah, Eileen and I. I am so glad we went to see them in the first place and they were definitely something very unique to Singapore, which was exactly what we were after.

Marina Bay

This is the area where we sat with our yummy and very sugar laden Bubble Teas. It was so nice to be outside and it not be unbearable in the heat! The fireworks were great, and set to music, and after the smoke from them cleared, you could see right across the bay.
Singapore is a relatively newer country, and has such beautiful architecture - even the Opera House looks like a durian and I loved it! After stopping to take some photos of all the skyscrapers, we headed over towards the gardens by the bay which were back at the Botanical Gardens!

The Helix bridge

We stopped and got some amazing food at the market, and listened to some live music, before heading over towards the science museum to ensure we had a good position to watch the fireworks. Linking one side of the harbour and the other is this incredibly cool
bridge which looks like a giant helix. I loved it! It was sadly closed, because of some of the military parades going on, but I was allowed up to take some really awesome photos right from the end. We ended up taking another foot path over to the other side so we could get some famous Bubble Tea! We had great seats from over the marina and watched the great fireworks set to music! It was so lovely!

Flying by Downtown

After visiting the Art Museum, we went down to the harbour, so we could see some more of the town. As we were crossing the park, we saw a bunch of military helicopters pulling a flag. When I asked Eileen about it, she explained that National Day was coming up and there were lots of practices and preperations for it. There are shows and parades, and most importantly, fireworks all in the days running up to it!

At the S. A. M

Sarah really likes art, so Eileen took us to a really cool modern art museum nearby. It was called the Singapore Art Museum, and had a giant, inflatable rabbit was a great opening to a really cool museum, which was currently showing an exhibit about Islam in the media, and people's interpretation of Islam due to the was really, really interesting. And Shelby would just have LOVED it.

High Tea at Raffles

One of THE things to do in Singapore is to have High Tea. And since the Singaporeans really care about food, its really, really popular. But THE place to do it is a Raffles, which is downtown. We were quite lucky to get in to have afternoon tea there, so after we went to the
Botanical gardens, we were able to get back in time for our reservation at Raffles. Our table was lovely, and the room was so nice and airy. There was a lovely buffet with lots of choice, especially all the dim sum which we loved! We also got to have al the clotted cream and scones we wanted!
We were joined by my friend Eileen, who actually I met while at Bristol, a very, very long time ago. We both were on the Bristol University business/development team and got to go to London together! She moved back home, to Singapore and we were so fortunate that she could join us, and then show us ALLLLLLLLL around Singapore!

The Botanical Gardens

We were lucky enough to miss the majority of the rain, quite randomly by stopping and taking some photos inside of the train station. It was a lovely walk to the Botanical Gardens, which were only recently built. We had a great time both inside and outside of the dome taking photos of the great flowers and the cute statues like this elephant!

Mirror, Mirror

The next morning, we got up, caught some breakfast and headed out to explore Singapore. Sadly, the rain was really bad, and we weren't quite sure what to do, as we figured a lot of the things to do were outside. Eventually, we settled on heading to the Botanical Gardens.
At the train station there, they have some amazing giant photos in bright colours and amazingly large mirrors, all the way down the corridor. We couldn't help but take photos there, and we spent a good long time there! We saw lots of people doing similar to us, but it was quite a smart plan as it turned out, as we were able to miss most of the rain!

Orchard Road, Singapore

I had not quite made it to Singapore nor Malaysia on my trips around South Asia, so I made sure to fly home via them, with a few days in each. Sarah, who also lived in Hagi, joined me for the ride to Singapore. We stayed in a lovely hotel, and headed out our very first night to see Orchard road, where all the great malls and shopping is! It was full of people, and great stores! I snapped this picture, right down in the centre, of the cool modern art instalation they had there!

Our very last departure from Japan

Leaving Japan is often fun because it meant that we were off home for Christmas, or is more often the case, off to some lovely holiday in Asia. While I was going on holiday to Singapore and Malaysia, I was leaving Japan for the very last time. I cried badly, leaving Josh as his house, and leaving his apartement with his cute Tanooki at the door for the final time, and getting on the bus one last time. By the airport, I had myself composed at least. I handed in my gaijin residence card, and while it was holepunched, it was thankfully returned to me as a souvenier. And with that, I was off. For the final time. Japan is one of those countries that gets into your soul - it will always be a part of me!