Tuesday, November 10, 2015

24 Hours in Singapore

Continued Travels!
On our way to India we scheduled ourselves a layover in Singapore. We had 27 hours to get out and see the city. We decided we would go out to see the city and come back to the airport to sleep. We arrived at 5:30am, got back to the airport at 11:30pm slept until 6am when we had to get on the plane and head to Mumbai.  

We really enjoyed Singapore. We experienced Singapore as "Asia Lite."   It's clean, everyone speaks English, the trains/buses are punctual, and it's a cosmopolitan city.  It has a true feeling Chinatown and Little India so you can acclimate to those experiences without actually dealing with the stress, crowds, and confusion of China or India.   And, it really is a garden city. There are big trees everywhere. That was pretty neat. 

I took a bit of a lazier approach by just explaining the photos.   Enjoy!

And leave comments!  I love comments!  Have you been to Singapore? How did you like it? No?  just say any old random thing.

 Made it to Singapore! The airport is packed full of art and decoration and things to do.  Bored?  Check out their roof top garden. Want a bit of wildlife, go to the butterfly garden.  Too hot? Swim in the rooftop pool. Extra money to spend?  Shop in every store imaginable. Lots of time to kill?  Take a free tour to the city!  Really. It's kind of unbelievable. 

I'm trying to capture the "NO" signs which, you might notice includes Durians.  A very smelly fruit.  Other signs also told you of the potential fines you could face for breaking these laws.  Smoking was $1000, eating was $500.  I'm not sure about the Durian fees. 

We started our day in Singapore with a trip to their Botanic Gardens. A Unesco World Heritage site. They were stunning.  The gardens were used to create and experiment with rubber trees.  Singapore provided most of the worlds rubber until the mid 1900s. 

Look at us at the Gardens! 

It's us again!   

On a treetop walk!

The city was decorated for Christmas!  We decided to take the bus from place to place so we could get a sense of the city.  Glad we did. the buildings are gorgeous and, as you can see,  festive.  

Our next stop after the Botanical Gardens was Chinatown. The first thing we did, of course, was to eat but once that was accomplished we wandered around. We both really enjoyed the architecture of the buildings in conjunction with the markets below them.  

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.  Yes, there is a buddha tooth here. It's houses in a solid gold reliquary that is the size of a small car.  

There was a lovely garden at the Buddha Tooth with a prayer wheel.  That big structure inside spins and as you spin it you are sending out prayers. It's pretty incredible.  

And we ate again!  

After we left Chinatown we went over to Little India.   

Isn't he adorable in all the color?  

Diwali is coming up and Little India was also decorated. In India, Diwali is as big as Christmas in the states.  

Again, we enjoyed the Architecture. We wandered down this street until we found a little corner cafe to eat.  We were the only foreigners and I was the only woman so we got a lot of stares.  

We stumbled upon a Ukulele store in Singapore.   Only Ukuleles!  It was so fun.  And run by some awkward but charming 20 something year old men.  We watched some emo music videos with them and were warned to not travel to the Philippines because the guards put bullets in your luggage.    Right? Interesting.  The store was pretty great and we did enjoy our time in there.  http://ukulelemovement.com/  They let us play with all the Ukuleles in there!   

And then, while trying to get to the CBD, we wandered though the underground shopping area following signs and hoping to arrive in the right place. After wandering thorugh the parking lot (followed signs) and then through the lobby of a performance hall (still following signs), we went up and escalator and came upon a Ukulele sing-a-long!  Over a hundred people with Ukuleles singing John Denver and Johnny Cash!  How to get Shannon to fall in love with a city?  bring her to s sing-a-long! 

Took a break from walking around by watching the light show across the bay. Pretty amazing and such a lovely rest. 

The other side of the bay.  Beautiful! 

Finished up our evening with another meal!  Singaporean Carrot Cake (an egg thing) and some satay.  Delicious!  The food stalls are really conveniently set up. You order from any one of them. They are all part of the same organization, so they give you plates and silverware that you just leave at any of the tables and the tables are bussed and cleaned.  So easy, delicious and safe. 

Long day. Jamie looking like a local sleeping on the train back to the Airport.   We got back to the airport at 11:30, found a quiet corner to sleep until 6am and then hopped on the plane to head to Mumbai. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Leaving Antarctica

How is it possible that we left Antarctica less than a month ago?  We still have winter friends on the ice!  It feels like so much time has passed.  With only one 24 hour delay, we left Antarctica on October 13th and arrived in Christchurch at 3am on the morning of the 14th.  Also,  to be sure that we were desperate to arrive in a warm place, we were driven to the Ice Runway a full 2 hours before we could board and then had to stand outside the entire time.  It was absolutely ludicrous and we were frozen but when we were finally allowed on the plane, I can guarantee that none of us was in any way sad.   To be completely honest, Jamie and I had wandered away to find a warm spot and were running to the plane as the were closing the doors and all the support vehicles were driving away.  I like to think that they wouldn’t have left without us, but it’s not like there’s a steward on the plane checking tickets.   While it was mildly embarrassing, it was certainly memorable.  We definitely thought we deserved that duty free wine we bought when we arrived at the wee hours of the morning. 

Arrival in Christchurch was awesome, by the way.  There was a mild misty rain when we landed and even before they opened the plane doors we could smell it.  Never has rain coated tarmac smelled so sweet!  It almost made the 45 minute wait for a shuttle to our hotel worthwhile.  After our 3am bottle of wine to celebrate our 1 year in Antarctica, we drifted off to sleep to be awoken by WARM SUNSHINE streaming though our window.   The sun was HOT!  I had forgotten that was a thing. It was so shocking and delightful that Jamie had to remind me that I was standing in the window with my sleepwear on.    After that delightful morning where we could smell every tree and flower and when I teared up at the sight of flowers (true story), the rest of our stay in Christchurch felt like a purgatory.    

Jamie had secured a contract for the following winter and was ready to do all his medical paperwork. I, however, didn’t get mine until the end of the first week in the city. That delayed our departure from New Zealand from Monday the 19th to Friday the 23rd.   There is nothing worse than sitting in Christchurch waiting to leave.   I think the city is pretty amazing, definitely worth a visit and has a lot to offer but overtime we are there we are just waiting to fly out.  With that energy looming over a visit, it can be exhausting.   

On the bright side, both Jamie and I left Christchurch with contracts for the upcoming winter season- 2016 February- and had nominal issues getting ourselves through our physical exams.  Best part about leaving Christchurch?  We were going to Port Vila, Vanuatu! 

Why Vanuatu you ask?  Because it has a house that met the requirements.   Back in July, a friend of ours mentioned getting a beach house and just lounging in sun and warmth to counter the dark and the cold.  Being in the throes of winter and working 6 days a week for at least 54 hours a week, nothing sounded better.   As the only thing that mattered was “warm” “beach” and “sun” we didn’t care too much about where we went so we created a criteria for our beach rental.  These were our requirements:  could sleep 9 people, beachfront, pool, full kitchen, outdoor lounging area, housekeepers, available car and (if possible) a feral cat that would come visit.  The Casa De Mar in Vanuatu satisfied all of our requirements an, Voila! There we were.   We arrived on October 23rd and stayed until November 4th.  The majority of the time we spent lounging in the sun (with some adventures out to buy food).  It was glorious.  We avoided major sunburn and feel well rested for continuation of our travels.  

While our main goal was to sit around, we did manage a few excursions.  We hired a driver to take us around the island.  We stopped at various gorgeous swimming holes and finished up with a stop at the hot springs.  Another day, the ladies who maintained our house took us to the market and taught us how to make traditional Ni-Vanuatu food.  Finally, on our last day, Jamie and I booked a trip out to another island for an overnight to see Mt Yasur-the world’s most accessible volcano. 

While we enjoyed Vanuatu, we are both excited to continue on with our travels.    Upcoming adventures include a 22-hour layover in Singapore, a month in India, Mexico for a wedding/ a bit of travel and then home for the holidays.   Arrival back in Boston-December 16th!  Can’t wait. 

This is our Vanuatu house. Casa De Mar.  They let us use the truck to drive into town for groceries. John rented the motorcycle for a day of death-defying fun. 
Our bedroom 
backyard of the property 
Our backyard 
 Our group beach excursion.

 Cooks in the kitchen.

Add caption
 Halloween night!

 Trying kava for the first time at the Melanesian feast we attended.  Best to down it in one quick go...

The ladies who took care of us all week volunteered to cook us a traditional meal.   We started by laying out Banana leaves.  Next came the copped up carrots, onion, cabbage, manioc, potato and sweet potato.  On top of that the seasoned chicken. Then we poured coconut milk (freshly squeezed) on top of it all. 

 Everything got wrapped up and folded together to be tied up with the steps of the banana leaf. 

After everything was prepped up, we spread out the stones (volcanic)  to put under and over the food.  It cooked like this for an hour.  These stones belonged to one of the ladies who generously dismantled her home cooking fire to provide this experience for us.  Very generous of her. 

The finished product. 
 Gigantic bananas.
On our final day, we took a charted plane to see a.....


The big grey mountain behind us is the volcano.  

The volcano. We were close enough to throw a baseball into the caldera.  This was probably the most amazing natural feature we've ever been seen, completely amazing and so worth the trip.