Bangkok (part 3)

12 Aug

Okay, let me start this post by explaining Tiger Airways. They charge for each piece of checked luggage you add, per piece, per way. So we were trying to save money and decided only to take a carry-on (weight limit 7kg = 15 lbs, totally doable for 4 days). Then, everyone told us that everything in Thailand is super cheap- where were they when we were booking this flight?? So we decided to take carry-ons on the way there and then consolidate our stuff into one suitcase (and check it) and put everything we buy in another suitcase for the way back. The problem is that you can only CALL the airline to add checked luggage up to 72 hours before your flight. (No, you cannot add it through the website, and if you wait until you get to the airport, the prices double and triple). On Friday, before we were set to leave, we tried to call from our hotel, but the phone company said the number listed in Tiger’s website was not toll free. Then, we tried to call from a payphone and that didn’t work either. Finally, my wonderful mother tried everything she could as well, but to no avail. So we went with our carry-ons.

The point of that whole story was to explain why I didn’t spend my entire life’s savings at Chatuchak (the weekend market) when we went on Saturday. Because let me tell you, they have everything you could ever need, and at ridiculously low prices. It is paradise! I want to go back, but when I’m rich, and have all the luggage in the world to check. It is rows and rows and rows of shops and stalls. I don’t think it would be possible to see them all in one day. It would take at least 2 days to even walk past them all (let alone shop in them).

We got there at 10, when it opened, and stayed until around 2 o’clock. We walked around, in awe of everything. There are so many different kinds of people and there is so much to look at! Also, unlike at the night market, people aren’t begging for your attention. They know you came there to shop, and they know they have low prices so they wait for you to come to them (which I liked!)

Mostly, we spent our money on food since we couldn’t afford anymore weight in our luggage. And boy, was it good! There are food stalls everywhere, and they serve all kinds of food. I had a waffle for breakfast (it was sold in a bag and it was called “mixed”- it had corn, raisins, and nuts in a chocolate batter. Sounds weird, but really good!), pineapple for a snack, Chinga (Thai beer) for lunch, and ice cream for an afternoon snack- a good day if you ask me haha! I could have stayed there for the entire 4 days, but we eventually had to leave and make our way back to Singapore.

I LOVED Thailand and would love to go back and explore more of the area. I did experience poverty a bit more. There are stray cats and dogs and people begging for money with their crying children in the skytrain stations- which was a bit of an eye-opener for me. The most alarming thing was the number of children I saw that were unsupervised- whether begging for money, riding the skytrain, or running around Chinatown, completely on their own. I guess not everyone can afford to escort their children everywhere or hire a babysitter while they are at work, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit of anxiety and fear each time I saw one of these kids. Singapore is one of the cleanest places I’ve ever been in my life (probably because of the extremely harsh penalties for littering and such), but there are no homeless people.  There are some who are obviously not so well off. You see many constructions workers riding in the back of an open truck (called lorries) or all the apartment maids gathered in the botanical gardens on Sunday afternoons for picnics, but you do not seen anyone without shoes or food. Thailand is full of shanties, and there is trash everywhere; many call it a developing country or second world. It’s not all luxury and glamour, but it has some amazing history and is ABSOLUTELY worth a second trip!

Bangkok (part 2)

12 Aug

Friday morning we got up around 8:30 and headed to one of the malls to shop. Nothing in Bangkok opens until 10, however, so we spent an hour walking around and waiting for things to open. Once inside Siam Square, we found a ton of fabulous name brand stores. We had Dunkin Donuts for breakfast (which made my entire morning- their coffee is a close second to Kopi haha), and headed out to find Platinum mall (where the real fun starts).

Platinum mall is somewhat like the Mart in Atlanta. There are a TON of stalls (all very small, just large enough for you to walk in and turn around), but there is nowhere to try on any clothes. Everything is pretty cheap, and they have wholesale prices for higher quantities.

After a whole day of shopping, we went to have a Thai Massage. It was extremely cheap (about $15 US dollars for a 2 hour massage), but it hurt! Holy crap! I know Thai massages are more therapeutic, so I assumed they were supposed to hurt a little but man- I think I should have fought back. I found a bruise on one of my calves this morning from her fingers! Sheesh! She used every part of her body- hands, feet, elbows… she even walked on my legs a little (and she wasn’t exactly tiny haha). It was an interesting experience. She popped parts of my back that I’ve never heard crack before. My favorite part was the head and neck massage (that was slightly gentler).  Let’s just say, I was feeling very flexible after that message (and a little sore).

After our massage, we headed back toward our hotel and stopped for dinner at a Thai restaurant.

After dinner, we walked around the night market just outside of our hotel. All of the vendors try to get your attention by yelling “miss” or “look here” and they stick things in your face, which I did NOT enjoy (I had to resist the urge to reach out and punch someone). The bargaining also makes me a little uptight, but it was a fun experience, and I think we got some good deals!

Our hotel was close to a place called Pat Pong (the red light district), and there are a TON of cross dressers. Seriously, I have never seen so many men dressed as women and men wearing makeup as I did in Thailand. In Singapore and Thailand, they call the cross dressers lady boys haha. We wanted to see a lady boy show, but we decided it might not be the safest place for the two of us to go alone- so we stuck to shopping!

We didn’t finish shopping and walking around until almost midnight- but it was a very fun day!

Here are some pictures!

Bangkok (part 1)

12 Aug

We made it back! What a whirlwind of a weekend that was. We got back to our apartment last night at 12:15 and crashed. (I didn’t wake up until 11 this morning).

I’m going to post about Bangkok in parts because there’s so much to remember and share.

Wednesday we left work at noon and took the MRT into the airport. The flight was fast (2 hours), and we landed in Bangkok at 5:30 (4:30 BKK time). We found our hotel and cooled down for a bit.

The hotel was actually really nice (we only paid S$30 a night, so $15 each, super cheap! It was more of a hostel, but it had a safe, AC, a bottle of water each day, shampoo/soap, towels, sheets, and they included a pack of toilet paper (since none of the public restrooms in Thailand have toilet paper- which I learned the hard way the first day). Also, toilet paper is thrown in the trash can, not the toilet.

After we cooled down a bit, we went to dinner and bought some snacks.

Thursday morning we got up early and left our hotel around 7 to get to the temples early. We took the skytrain and connected to a boat ferry which took us to the first temple, Wat Arun (temple of dawn). The temple is SO tall, and the stairs to get to the top are extremely steep. There is no inside, so we just walked around the temple. I had to rent a wrap to put around my legs since none of the temples allow shorts or sleeveless shirts.

We met a girl named Peggy on our boat ferry. She was traveling from Malaysia and was by herself, so we invited her to travel with us for the day.

The second temple we went to was Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha), and it was HUGE! He took up the entire inside of the temple, pretty cool! There were also rows of black buckets that were meant for donations. There are 100 buckets, and most people get enough coins to put one in each bucket.

After Wat Pho, we set out for the Grand Palace. I stopped along the way to get some pineapple at a roadside stand (which only cost me $.63), and it was SO good! There are street cars EVERYWHERE in Bangkok, and our shuttle driver warned against eating from them since the last time he went and ate at one he got very sick and ended up in the hospital. So I decided to stick with the fruit (which they cut right in front of you).

The Grand Palace was a long walk, and we passed several tuk tuks along the way. Tuk tuks drive small cars that look more like carriages, and they are supposed to be slightly cheaper than taxis. However, MANY of them are scammers. We saw several signs and heard from many people to be careful of tuk tuks claiming that the temple you want to see is closed for the day, and they will take you somewhere else that you can tour. There were actually tuk tuks standing outside of the Grand Palace claiming the temple was closed for praying and trying to get people to follow them elsewhere.

Once inside, I had to rent another wrap, and we bought our tickets. By the way, the wrap was insanely hot, and I feel sorry for women to have to wear that all the time. We found a free English tour that was starting just as we arrived and tagged along. Our tour guide’s name was Ken, and he was very funny. Ken told us about the painting continuing on all the walls of the Grand Palace (it’s the longest painting in the world), and he said it tells a story about the history of the temple and the king. All students in school in Thailand must learn the story and recite it in front of the class (he sang some of it for us-it’s actually more like a chant).  Ken told us a lot of interesting information about the various statues within the Grand Palace (and he always finished his sentences with lai dat -haha!).

After the Grand Palace, Vivian, Peggy, and I found a restaurant to eat lunch in (that was air conditioned, most importantly). Then, we went to Chinatown. Chinatown must be where The Hangover 2 was shot because it is a bustling and very busy part of town. It is almost indescribable. There are people EVERYWHERE, and shops and street cars are on every single street. We found some very good deals and caught the boat ferry back toward our hotel. We went to dinner and headed back to our hotel early (exhausted and ready for a shower).

Here are some pictures of the first 2 days. P.S. I bought really crappy batteries before leaving Singapore, and my camera died after the first few hours of the first day, so the rest of the pictures are from my iphone- sorry!

Museum/Dinner at Chimes

12 Aug

I posted last week that we might be going to the National Museum and then dinner with Francis.

We ended up being able to do both!

We met Dan at the museum and spent a few hours there. We didn’t find it that interesting (I think it would have been better if we had rented the headphones and actually knew what we were looking at haha), but at least we can say we’ve been!

After the museum, we walked to Chimes, which is a place behind a church of bars and restaurants. We had a drink (Tiger beer, mmm) while waiting for Francis.

Once she arrived, she picked a place downstairs with a pop-up screen so that we could watch the olympics. We could hear fireworks as we ate- they were practicing for the national day parade. Singapore’s national day was August 9th, and they put on a parade that only a limited number of people may attend with a purchased ticket. It seems to be a big production, and Singaporeans take much pride in putting on a huge display of love for their country. I’m kind of bummed we weren’t there to see it! The food at Chimes wasn’t that great (expensive bar food), but the atmosphere and perfect weather outside made up for it!

Long week!

4 Aug

Phew, another super crazy week! I know I said I wasn’t going to post these long, boring posts but I can’t help it. Everything catches up with me and spills out in one long entry (sorry if it bores you)!

I’ve been having issues with my neighbors being really loud (the walls are really thin) so I’ve moved my bed into the middle of the room- funny looking but effective!

We were pretty busy at work again this week. The time is FLYING by!

We went to the post office on Monday after lunch to get some stamps for our postcards, so hopefully they will be reaching their destinations before we get back haha!

Tuesday we went with my buddy to change our money to Thai bahts for our Bangkok trip (she was changing money to Australian dollars for her trip Wednesday). I actually MADE money on the exchange (which is a little strange). The exchange rate was S$1=24.44 bahts and I got it at S$1=25.55 bahts. I’m not sure how we did it, but I’m not complaining (I actually think it’s because Thai bahts are so weak that they would rather have the Sing dollars). I exchanged S$350, so hopefully that will be enough to last me for the trip. I’m worried because everyone says that everything in Bangkok is so cheap that we will be shopping fiends (which made me decide to add some checked luggage), but we will take some Sing dollars for exchange as backup just in case.

We went for a dim sum lunch on Tuesday, which are different types of dumplings. They were all really good. I had a green one called egg ball that was really good. It was more of a dessert with egg yolks in the middle, and it was pretty sweet!

We have made a list of things we still want to see before I leave Singapore (we’re running out of time). So Wednesday, Vivian and I crossed off 2 of the things when we went to visit the Merlion Park (a smaller Merlion within walking distance to our work building) and the Esplanade, which is a theater that looks like a pineapple from the outside!

Thursday we went to an Indonesian lunch with a new guy in our office Dan Chiu. He is from the US office and is an experienced senior. The Singapore PWC office will send a senior to the US office soon, so it is a swap. Anyway, lunch was pretty good- curry chicken.  We stopped for dinner on our way home from work and rushed home to watch some of the Olympics.

Friday we had our weekly salad lunch with 2 other girls from our office (the crab/avocado salad I posted pictures of a while back) and wrapped up everything at the office.  We were planning to meet one of Vivian’s friends from China for dinner, but he didn’t show up (hope he’s okay). It has been POURING today and yesterday though, so we just got home as fast as we could to our warm rooms (and tea).

Today we are planning to go see the National Singapore Museum with Dan (hopefully it will stop raining eventually) and maybe meet Francis for dinner!

This is my last weekend in Singapore (WHAT?!) – have I mentioned that it feels like time is flying by? ha   Anna is leaving for the beach on Tuesday with the Yoders, and I’m sad that I will miss it- I miss those sweet babies! I can’t wait to have our Mexican dates!!

Our flight for Bangkok leaves Wednesday at 3:30 (we’ll be taking a half day at work and leaving at noon), and we will be returning to the airport in Singapore at 11:30pm Saturday night. I probably will not have time to post until we get back, so I’ll try to make notes of everything we do and take plenty of pictures!

See y’all soon (exactly 2 weeks from today, in fact)!

Singapore Zoo

29 Jul

This week flew by! We have been VERY busy at work. We went to an Italian restaurant for lunch with Pranav and some of his friends on Friday, and we attempted to go to the grocery store on the way home from work.  We got there, only to find it had been closed for renovations and won’t open again until September, AHH! The next closest FairPrice (only reasonably priced grocery store) was a 15 minute bus ride away, so we packed and eventually made it. By the time we made it home (sweating and weighed down with bags of groceries), it was almost 10!!! Needless to say, we will be going to the Cold Storage in the bottom of our apartment from now on- we decided it was worth the $5 extra dollars for cereal.

Saturday morning we got up early and left for the zoo around 10:15.  It was a LONG day of walking and shows (we saw 3 animals shows- Elephants at work, Splash zone, and Rainforest fights back).  There was a lot to see, but we saw even more when we went to the Night Safari.  We stood in line for what felt like ages and finally made it to the Creatures of the Night show (and even witnessed a surprise proposal during the show), which was very cool! The animals walk on lines above the audience, and one even walked right over our heads.  After the show we headed for the tram line (which was ridiculously long), but lucky for us a torrential downpour cleared out many of the people. We made it onto the tram after about an hour of waiting and got to see many active animals during the 30 minute tour.  Many of the animals were standing right on the edge of the road- close enough to touch! After the tram ride (9:30) we were too tired to do any of the walking trails and afraid we would miss the last bus so we headed home and finally made it there at 11. PHEW- what a long day!!!

Today we went to Chinatown, and it was crowded! We walked along all the streets and shopped (there are booths everywhere) and ate. We stopped into Nanyang Old Coffee and had a snack and iced coffee.  It is actually called iced kopi (which is coffee mixed with condensed milk), and was very cheap- about $1.40 US dollars for a tall glass.  I also had kaya toast (which Singapore is pretty famous for) which is toast that is buttered on one side and spread with kaya on the other (kaya is coconut jam) and put together like a sandwich.  It was a good snack and the coffee was SO good- better than anything at Starbucks. The condensed milk added the perfect amount of sweetness without making it too rich (I’ve never thought about adding that before!). Vivian and I could not stop talking about it, and we want to try to find one close to our office.

Well, gotta go do some laundry. Here are some pictures!

 

Raffles Hotel

22 Jul

We were planning to go to the zoo today, but we got up and moving too late, so we’ve decided to save that for next weekend.

We decided to venture out and see where we wound up. First we went to Far East Plaza, which is one of the few shopping malls we did not make it to on Orchard Road.  It is a lot like Lucky Plaza (YIKES!) except cleaner and with just clothes- no electronics really.  Vivian bought a pair of shoes because she has a hard time finding shoes small enough to fit her feet in the US (she’s a size 35 in Singapore). The shoes she brought with her are from the kids department of Target I think. My shoe size, on the other hand, is a 40 here (which I’m pretty sure is the biggest size they make).

We then went to the Raffles Hotel to walk around and get a drink.  It’s a very historical building with gorgeous outdoor patios.  We stopped into the Long Bar to have the Original Singapore Sling. The bar is very old fashioned and very cool; there are peanuts on every table and the shells are just thrown on the floor. The sling is made with cherry brandy, Grenadines, pineapple juice, gin and some other stuff.  It was really good, and it better have been because it set us each back about $30!

Sentosa

22 Jul

Yesterday we went to Sentosa. We spent the morning trying to get our flights booked for Bangkok in a few weeks (Singapore has a national holiday on the only long weekend we get off from work, so flights are pretty expensive- but I’ll probably never be back here so no time like the present!) which was sort of a nightmare, but we eventually got it!

We took the bus, MRT, and cable car to get to Sentosa.  It’s very touristy but definitely something everyone in Singapore should see. The Merlion, which is the big lion statue that is synonymous with Singapore, is at Sentosa so we were really excited to see that!

There are touristy things there like Universal Studios and an aquarium that we decided not to do.

We pretty much walked along every beach along the coast (which was anticlimactic).  The beaches are not what I had pictured; there aren’t very many people swimming and not much relaxation.  There are a few bars and some volleyball, but off in the distance are oil boats and cargo ships (not the most relaxing view).  Also, it was really really hot yesterday.

We did, however, make it to the southernmost point of continental Asia!

We stopped for dinner in the MRT station on the way home, made a quick trip to the grocery store, and put our sweaty bodies into the shower and bed!

Indian Lunch

22 Jul

I forgot to tell you that we had Indian food for lunch on Thursday. One of the Google managers, Jayashree, took us to our first Indian meal at a restaurant in Little India. (She is a vegetarian so she ordered a lot of dishes for us and just a few for herself). I didn’t particularly like any of the main dishes, and quite frankly I don’t even remember what most of them were. There were a few dishes with chicken, some with lamb, and some rice that Vivian and I agreed contained something that wasn’t meant to be eaten as it made our tongues burn A LOT!

I LOVED the appetizer; it was kind of like a large hard tortilla with a pico de gallo and goat cheese on top. I also like the naan (bread); we got all kinds- butter, garlic, cheese and plain, and they were all delicious. The dessert was something that looked and tasted like a doughnut hole in some type of rum sauce like that which might be served on bread pudding.  Everyone else thought it was too sweet, but it was just right for me!

Marina Bay Sands Hotel/Dinner with Francis

22 Jul

We have been so busy lately, I have hardly had time to remember what we did!

Wednesday evening after work, we went to the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to see the view. (If you google Singapore, this is a very popular building- 3 towers with a large ship at the very top). It was amazing… the views were awesome!! We managed to make it to the top for free (probably because they thought we looked like tourists and assumed we were staying there) and got to watch the sun set.

Friday night we went to dinner with Francis, a lady who is on an assignment here in Singapore from the Connecticut PWC Office.  She lives in Manhattan and used to be a flight attendant.  She said she has a hard time making herself go out on the weekends because she doesn’t like to sit alone, so we decided to find a place to get drinks. (Also, she reminds me A LOT of my granny- kinda comforting haha!) She’s got very expensive taste (I guess the NY in her), and she’s very bossy- but I like her. We picked a wine bar and had a few appetizers and wine, and Francis decided to treat us! We bought her some ice cream and then headed home.  Did I mention she lives in our building? It was the first time she had taken the bus, and she was not a happy camper. It was hot and too long of a wait for her haha- but I kept reminding her that it was an adventure.

Here are some pictures!

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