Archive for December, 2013

Malaysia train line, hiking in Singapore

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

When the Malaysian train lines stopped running into Singapore on June 30th, 2011 after 79 years of use (it was built by the British in 1932), the rails were torn up, the railway ties removed, and the gravel gathered away, leaving a nice clean path cut through the forest. It’s been turned over to the public, which can use it to wander up and down, and we’ve been exploring it in sections. In early November, Zen and I explored the middle section, which is near where we live, from the Bukit Timah Station, south to where the line intersects with Holland Road. This section is nearly entirely rain forest, and we saw some beautiful birds. That trip was about five kilometers.

On Thursday, we went to Bukit Timah Station, crossed the old iron bridge, and walked north, passing Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, through forests – where we observed plants with giant leaves, beautiful butterflies, a funky-coloured moth, squirrels, and plenty of birds – before getting to grassy areas, and then a long stretch that runs parallel to Upper Bukit Timah Road. Some runners on the track, and also some cyclists as well. At one point, they’ve taken out a train bridge, so we had to detour around that a bit (and we noticed that the track was much less-used on this north part. Finally we got off the tracks and headed over to Karu’s Indian Banana Leaf Curry, where we once went with my brother and his family, for a great lunch. We got there at 11:00 just as it opened and were one of the first customers. Our trip for the day was about six kilometers.

Today, we decided to explore the southernmost part of the line, so we took a bus to Holland Road, clambered down to the train route, and walked and walked. That is such a beautiful way to see Singapore – we passed the back yards of mansions, saw a school, passed rustic-looking HDB buildings (the old ones – only three levels), saw some sort of mansion, and all sorts of things. At one point I thought that I was in Bali!! Cyclists pass us, and we kept walking and walking. Eventually, the track runs parallel with the Ayer Rajah Expressway, so it became quite loud. The last kilometer before we got to the end of the line was no longer much fun. As we approached the old Tanjong Pagar Train Station, where the track used to widen into train yards, we got to the end of the line, as the train yards and station area is fenced off. We got off the trail and onto a city road and took a bus into Chinatown where we had a nice lunch again. This time we went back to Jing Hua restaurant where we had great Chinese dumplings and potstickers. We were also among the first to eat there, as we got there at 11:20 and the place opens for business at 11:30. Good thing we were early, the place filled up very fast! A lot of walking that day – the hike was about 11 kilometers.

There’s still a 9.5 kilometer section that we haven’t explored yet, which runs north of Karu’s to the border checkpoint, but I don’t think that this will be a very nice trip, so I think we’ll skip it. I believe that the total length is about 30 kilometers, although something about my math doesn’t add up because there’s only supposed to be 26 kilometers of track. Oh well…

Update – The area we walked along has now been officially named the “Green Corridor“. Find maps of the whole route here.

Bukit Timah Road train bridge

Bukit Timah Road train bridge

Holy giant potato leaves!!

Holy giant potato leaves!!

Green corridor

Green corridor

Green corridor

Green corridor

Green corridor

Green corridor

Green corridor

Green corridor

Smile!

Smile!

…and a nice lunch to top it off!

…and a nice lunch to top it off!

Early start

Early start

Early start

Early start

Early start

Early start

Green, green Singapore

Green, green Singapore

The little house in the rain forest

The little house in the rain forest

Train tunnel graffiti

Train tunnel graffiti

End of the line

End of the line

…and another nice lunch to top it off

…and another nice lunch to top it off

Downtown line is open!

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

On Friday I had errands to do downtown, I thought I’d also go along and check out the new Downtown Line, which includes a stop very close to my place of work, Asia Square (which is the Downtown station, actually). I got on at Chinatown, and noted that access to the two lines Chinatown services is very near to the street level entrance. Basically, you go down a short escalator to the ticket wickets, pay to get in, then go down another escalator and you’re at the platform. Great! To my delight, Downtown station is just as convenient!! Other stations, of course, require you to go down several escalators, walk along a long tunnel, and then finally enter the paid area.

For some reason, the day I rode, the tunnels were fully illuminated, so you could see all the cabling on the walls, etc. The front and back cars have huge windows, which means you can see all the ups and downs and turns (and shunts) in the system. Good fun for the kiddies.

The trains only have three cars, so they’re mini-things. The line’s not designed for huge capacity – I wonder what they’re going to do if demand is huge.

Naturally there are announcements every five seconds, and in four languages to boot. I would go crazy if I had to ride it every day. They have little TV screens that show public service messages – move to the centre of the car, remove your backpack when on crowded trains (that’s a new one – I like it), give your seat up for those who need it more than you do… even if they don’t want it, etc.

Saturday Naoko and Zen and I walked downtown along the old Malaysia train line, and we had the opportunity to try it again, so we did. This time the tracks weren’t illuminated, I wonder why…

Downtown line, view from front car - illuminated

Downtown line, view from front car - illuminated

Subway cars made by Bombardier!

Subway cars made by Bombardier!

Downtown line, view from front car - not illuminated

Downtown line, view from front car - not illuminated

Bye-bye 2013

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Had a great year-end holiday this year, got to do a lot of fun stuff, like reading, hiking, watching movies, laying chess with Zen, and exploring Singapore. Went out for lots of meals, such as to No Sign Board at East Coast Park, Karu’s Indian Banana Leaf Curry, and Jing Hua in Tanjong Pagar. On Sunday, December 22nd, I played four songs at the Hard Rock Cafe open mic. Zen and Naoko were there to cheer me on; I had been encouraging Zen to come up on stage with me to sing backup on some songs, but he was too shy to do it (this time). On the 23rd, we went to Zen’s new school to register him and to buy his books and uniforms. On Christmas Eve we saw the new Hobbit movie, then went home and ate cheese fondue! I played guitar a lot, focussing mainly on memorizing Leonard Cohen songs, and perfecting my own original songs. It was great to have 11 days off, including two weekends, to see movies, and to chill out and relax.

Books I read:

- Ministry: The Lost Gospels According To Al Jourgensen, by Al Jourgensen –
- I’m In The Band, by Sean Yseult –
- The Death Of Superman
- A World Without Superman

Movies I saw:

- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- Elf
- Doctor Zhivago
- Duck Soup
- The Simpsons, Season One
- The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show, Season Two
- Hellboy
- The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle

Activities:

- chili crab!
- cleaning the apartment
- hiking
- Christmas shopping
- guitar!
- rode the downtown line
- visited Zen’s school
- seeing bands playing in town

Chili crab!

Chili crab!

Chili crab!

Chili crab!

Hard Rock Cafe!

Hard Rock Cafe!

Hard Rock Cafe!

Hard Rock Cafe!

Naoko

Naoko

Fondue on Christmas Eve!!

Fondue on Christmas Eve!!

Fondue on Christmas Eve!!

Fondue on Christmas Eve!!

train bridge!

train bridge!

Big leaves

Big leaves

Old Malaysia train route nature walk

Old Malaysia train route nature walk

Old Malaysia train route nature walk

Old Malaysia train route nature walk

Old Malaysia train route nature walk

Old Malaysia train route nature walk

Old Malaysia train route nature walk

Old Malaysia train route nature walk

Flower child

Flower child

Danger? Where?!?

Danger? Where?!?

Lunch!

Lunch!

Our trip to Bali

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Oh man, we had a GREAT trip to Bali!!

It didn’t start so hot – we had a late afternoon flight, and then a three hour delay (two hours were KLM’s fault, one hour was due to heavy rains in Singapore), which meant that we only arrived at our gorgeous Motama Inn suite in Bali’s Ubud town close to midnight! But, in view of the other KLM horror stories I’ve heard since, I think we got off lucky. Zen and I took our guitars, and I was traveling with the cowboy boots and cowboy hat, so it was full style. Nice.

Our first morning, Sunday, was spent chilling out in our gorgeous Motama suite, with the cool breakfast that they served, and then Naoko and I went to wander the town, while Zen enjoyed the cable TV. We found the football field, and a nice little art shop that sold some paintings we fancied (we went back the next day and bought three small ones), as well as the village itself. The interesting thing about Motama is that, although Ubud is a thoroughly touristic town, Motama is the only tourist accommodation in the whole vicinity, so we got to observe plenty of Balinese village life, including a temple festival, a “tomb-sweeping” ceremony, and all sorts of other groovy stuff. Wow!!

In the afternoon we went to Ubud proper and wandered around, partly looking for the old guest house we stayed at in 1996 when Naoko and I visited Bali as backpackers, partly looking for new accommodation for December 2nd to 5th, when we were without a secured place to stay. We wandered all over Ubud, eventually discovering two nice places that we’d want to stay at – the luscious Second Honeymoon with its gorgeous gardens (for the evening of December 2nd and 3rd), and the quaint backpacker spot the Ganesha Inn (December 4th). In the evening we went back to Motama to have dinner served in our suite, and chill out.

Monday morning was spent chilling out some more, and also wandering around the rice field, and buying our paintings. We checked out, and went to Second Honeymoon. We wandered around and for lunch we ate babi guleng, which is traditional Bali pork dishes. Yummy, and great garden shop!! We found lots of shops and cafe and went back to our accommodation, Naoko went to a spa, Zen and I played chess and guitar on the front porch, and in the evening we ate pizza (yummy!) and saw a local parade. Cool!

On Tuesday we had our breakfast, and played chess and chilled out and went to visit Monkey Forest, and also booked our river rafting tour (Zen’s choice). We also ate lunch at an eatery overlooking rice fields. Great view… but the food was terrible!!! Oh well. In the evening we went for the same pizza place!

Wednesday was fun day – we went river rafting! A 10 kilometer course, that took two hours to complete. The driver picked us up, we drove 20 minutes uphill, got to an “arrival station”, got into our swimming gear and our life jackets, then we trekked into the river valley, where rafts were waiting for us. We got a quick course in how to follow our guide’s instructions, and off we went – four Japanese, a Canadian, and American, and a Bali dude. We went along the river, and very quickly hit our first rough patch, which we went down like a short roller coaster. It was fun. We went past many rocky sections, never with any problems except for getting stuck on rocks (that was the guide’s problem to solve). We often met other rafters along the way, and got to recognize a few of them again and again (they often splashed us with their paddles, just for fun). At one point we stopped at a place that had carvings inspired by the Hindu Ramayana epic. We stopped once at a little shack in the middle of the journey that served food and drinks for those that wanted to buy them, and rocks to dive off of for those who wanted to do that. I did it a bunch of times, and Zen even did it once! We also drifted along a beautiful waterfall, with the guide making sure we soaked in it. We also saw several great resorts in the river valley above us, probably something to look into staying at next time we go to Bali (which, we hope, will be soon). There were two points where we could jump into the river and float along next to the raft. Yay! At the end we got to a cool restaurant that looked out onto rice fields, there we chilled out again and had a nice brunch, while admiring the scenery. Lovely! Even better, it was only a 10 minute ride back to Second Honeymoon!!

In the afternoon we went to the Ganesha Inn to check into our room, and chilled out all day. In the evening we went to the amazing Warung Cafe – a beautiful Ubud cafe with amazing food. Loved it!!

Thursday we hung around Ganesha Inn a lot, then headed off for lunch down the lanes and discovered local eateries selling amazing satay! Nice chili sauce too!! Then we jumped into a cab and went off to the Hotel Grand Nikko in Nusa Dua, at the coast, and enjoyed our room, and the local Japanese restaurant (you normally don’t go to Bali to eat Japanese food, but this was a Japanese hotel, and the food was excellent). Nice!!

Friday we went to the beach, went to brunch, went back to the beach and pool (water slide!!), and then off to dinner in town at a local grill – Ulam, across the street from the Melia Benoa. Nice stuff!!

One funny thing I noticed about Bali is that there are a lot of convenience stores and small grocery shops, called “marts”. There was Alpha Mart, Cancer Mart, Dharma Mart, and Johnny Mart. Nice!

Saturday, our last day in Bali, we went for a stroll on the beach, had our brunch, then hung out in the room, had a late check out at 2:00 PM, hung out at the pool and beach all afternoon, had another amazing dinner at the restaurant, and then off we went to the airport. The flight was on time, and we got to Singapore with no problems. Great!

Sunday we got up early to meet Margaret and Larry and the girls for a nice breakfast… but that’s another story.

Guitar, boots, hat, son… check!

Guitar, boots, hat, son… check!

Natural beauty at night

Natural beauty at night

Love our private pool!!

Love our private pool!!

Love our breakfast!!

Love our breakfast!!

Love our breakfast!!

Love our breakfast!!

Nagisa ni te - on the love beach!

Nagisa ni te - on the love beach!

Love pool!

Love pool!

Love our private pool!!

Love our private pool!!

Love pool!

Love pool!

Rice paddy of love!

Rice paddy of love!

Motama sunrise!

Motama sunrise!

Motama bed

Motama bed

Motama shadows

Motama shadows

Motama gal

Motama gal

Motama gal

Motama gal

Football field in Ubud

Football field in Ubud

Ubud villager

Ubud villager

Ubud village gate god

Ubud village gate god

Rice paddy of love!

Rice paddy of love!

Rice paddy view!

Rice paddy view!

Sofa girl!

Sofa girl!

Contemplation…

Contemplation…

Bye bye Motama!!

Bye bye Motama!!

Oh Lord, yeah!!

Oh Lord, yeah!!

Relax!

Relax!

Lotus lake!

Lotus lake!

Babi guleng!!

Babi guleng!!

Garuda!!

Garuda!!

Mini-bird warrior.

Mini-bird warrior.

Love monkey number 9!

Love monkey number 9!

Zen porcelain. Oooohhh…!!!

Zen porcelain. Oooohhh…!!!

Zen guitar again!

Zen guitar again!

Love fountain

Love fountain

Love shadows

Love shadows

Love pizza

Love pizza

Chess at Second Honeymoon!!

Chess at Second Honeymoon!!

Monkey forest monkeys!!

Monkey forest monkeys!!

Peter loves Naoko, and vice versa

Peter loves Naoko, and vice versa

Fish are eating our flesh!!

Fish are eating our flesh!!

Fish are eating our flesh!!

Fish are eating our flesh!!

Fish are eating our flesh!!

Fish are eating our flesh!!

Fish are eating my flesh!!

Fish are eating my flesh!!

Frog went a-courtin'...

Frog went a-courtin'...

River rafting gang!!

River rafting gang!!

River rafting gang!!

River rafting gang!!

River rafting gang!!

River rafting gang!!

River rafting!!

River rafting!!

After-rafting

After-rafting

River rafting!!

River rafting!!

River rafting!!

River rafting!!

River rafting!!

River rafting!!

River rafting!!

River rafting!!

River rafting!!

River rafting!!

River rafting!!

River rafting!!

After-rafting

After-rafting

After-rafting

After-rafting

After-rafting

After-rafting

After-rafting

After-rafting

Moustache man!!

Moustache man!!

Monkey forest Naoko!!

Monkey forest Naoko!!

The Laughing Mynah - konnichiwa!!

The Laughing Mynah - konnichiwa!!

Chess kids at Ganesha Inn!!

Chess kids at Ganesha Inn!!

Chess kids at Ganesha Inn!!

Chess kids at Ganesha Inn!!

Chess kids at Ganesha Inn!!

Chess kids at Ganesha Inn!!

Ganesha Inn view!!!!

Ganesha Inn view!!!!

Chillin' at Ganesha Inn!!

Chillin' at Ganesha Inn!!

Dinner at the wonderful Ibu Oka shop for babi guleng!

Dinner at the wonderful Cafe Warung!

Chillin' at chess at Ganesha Inn!!

Chillin' at chess at Ganesha Inn!!

Zen guitar at Ganesha Inn!!

Zen guitar at Ganesha Inn!!

Ganesha Inn Ganesha

Ganesha Inn Ganesha

Zen guitar at Ganesha Inn

Zen guitar at Ganesha Inn

Grocery mart, with satay

Grocery mart, with satay

Yummy satay!!

Yummy satay!!

Yummy satay!!

Yummy satay!!

Yummy nasi goreng!

Yummy nasi goreng!

Ganesha Inn!!

Ganesha Inn!!

Ganesha Inn!!

Ganesha Inn!!

Ganesha Inn!!

Ganesha Inn!!

Hotel Grand Nikko… TV

Hotel Grand Nikko… TV

Hotel Grand Nikko's view

Hotel Grand Nikko's view

Cafe Ulam grilled fish - yummy!!

Cafe Ulam grilled fish - yummy!!

Cafe Ulam grilled fish - yummy!!

Cafe Ulam grilled fish - yummy!!

Ulam food!!!

Ulam food!!!

Ulam food!!!

Ulam food!!!

Ulam food!!!

Ulam food!!!

Ulam food!!!

Ulam food!!!

Ulam food!!!

Ulam food!!!

Ulam food!!!

Ulam food!!!

Ulam food!!!

Ulam food!!!

Hotel Grand Nikko morning

Hotel Grand Nikko morning

Beach baby

Beach baby

Beach baby

Beach baby

Nikko beach

Nikko beach

Beach baby

Beach baby

Nikko pool

Nikko pool

Naoko on the Beach

Naoko on the Beach

Nikko fishermen, oh YEAH!!

Nikko fishermen, oh YEAH!!

Nikko beach big sky!!

Nikko beach big sky!!

Naoko on the Nikko love beach!!

Naoko on the Nikko love beach!!

Nikko fishermen, oh YEAH!!

Nikko fishermen, oh YEAH!!

Naoko on the love beach!!

Naoko on the love beach!!

Nikko fishermen, oh YEAH!!

Nikko fishermen, oh YEAH!!

Nikko!!

Nikko!!

Nikko helipad!

Nikko helipad!

Lovin' our last hour at Nikko, with Japanese food!!

Lovin' our last hour at Nikko, with Japanese food!!

Lovin' our last hour at Nikko, with Japanese food!!

Lovin' our last hour at Nikko, with Japanese food!!

Lovin' our last hour at Nikko, with Japanese food!!

Lovin' our last hour at Nikko, with Japanese food!!

Guitar guys!!

Guitar guys!!