Tuesday, 6 April 2010

West Lake Wonders

I am sitting in my hotel room at the Sofital in Hanoi looking at the fabled West Lake from my window.  There is not however much to see, as the sight is obscured by light rain which has dogged my visit thus far.

Lonely Planet Hanoi & Halong Bay EncounterThis is my first visit to Vietnam and the city is much as I expected with lots of honking motorbikes weaving their way through traffic, women in their traditional conical hats peddling their wares and a very courteous population.

The houses are narrow and at three levels with a balustrade and balcony on the second.  Most are in a state one often sees in in Asian cities but here and there are signs of renovation.

There is local fruit in abundance, although much of it is not of what one my term 'export quality' but tasty nevertheless.

The coffee is excellent and robust in character. One shot at  breakfast is enough to get the eyeballs rolling!

My other observation is just how many pagoda temples there are in the city and architecturally they look very similar to Chinese Buddhist temples that I have observed elsewhere in South East Asia.  Their enduring presence comes as a pleasant surprise.

Today's Print - West Lake

West Lake - Hanoi

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Another Queenstown Valley Sunday

It's another Sunday but this one falls on the Easter weekend.  Back in New Zealand the local populace are busy killing themselves on the road in the great Kiwi tradition.

Even though the road toll fluctuates there is always a spike in road fatalities at this time.  This is why the traditional Easter greeting often contains the words "have a safe weekend".

Here in Singapore talk of traffic is more about th possibility of getting people of the long haul bus services and on to the MRT thereby cutting down travelling time to and from work by up to an hour.

However this initiative does not meet with universal approval as some prefer the opportunity to catch up with sleep in the relative comfort of a bus seat, rather than becoming a sardine in the morning rush MRTs.

My trips in recent time to have literally been pedestrian affairs;  enroute to the Queentown library by way of circumventing the old Queenstown Bowl building.  The latter has been host to a wild bee swarm for the past fortnight but today the swarm had gone, flushed out no doubt by the ever-vigilant pest controllers.

Further on as I passed under the HDB where, just yesterday, I watched groups of sitting men looking upwards at their caged birds, all of which were in full song.  The bird in question was a small green variety looking very similar to the New Zealand waxeye but with a longer beak.  Here I think they referred to as White Eyes.

The wooden Puteh cages themselves are beautifully crafted as you can see in this example left.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

All This For $18!

Prolong your makeup!

Cat On A Cold Icream Stool

Semi-feral cats can sometimes be seen slinking around the HDB blocks of Singapore and they are not a distinguished breed with their short fur and stubby tails.

I call this feline the Icecream Cat as he can be found perfectly at home next to the ice cream vendor's cart by the Queenstown MRT exit.

He was originally a pet cat who discovered many years ago that there was more to offer loitering with intent near the cart on paved apron outside the HDB, than remaining upstairs with his previous owner.

When the vendor arrives by motorbike and sidecar early each afternoon he watches from afar as they set up their umbrella.  Once everything is to his liking he makes his way to the nearest available stool and waits for the saucer of icecream to be placed before him.

The strutting pigeons have nothing to fear as he has no need to chase them for food;  he is content to take his nap under the umbrella and graciously accept the attention of the doting vendor.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Monkeying About

The Zoo: The Story of London ZooLondon Zoo has just announced an exciting new concept; they are going to allow visitors and primates to interact without any barriers such as glass and cages.

Their apparent aim is to simulate an Amazonian ecosystem somewhere near Euston Road.

While I wish them luck in their endeavours there are those of us who can still remember being harassed by troupes of monkeys in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The scenario was not a pleasant one when I experienced this in 1982.

The zoo's director, a Mr Field, is reportedly "evangelical about tearing down the bars and letting the animals roam free".

A good run around Singapore's McRitchie Reservoir pursued by hungry Macaque monkeys is all he needs to bring him to his senses.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

The Selling Art

There are things that you realise you can do without and things that will forever remain precious. And then there are the undefined things that fall somewhere in the middle.

It is almost four years that we have lived in Singapore and when we came one of the largest shipping expenses was the transport of the remnants of a painting collection.

These works have remained propped up against our lounge wall still in their original packing. Whereas once upon a time I would not have felt comfortable without wall festooned with art, I have adopted a more philosophical approach to my immediate environment.

Most of these paintings are from the 1980's when I last put brush to canvas and some of the art from this time is the work of other people.

Scarborough Head - Dusk.........  Roger Smith

When we eventaully return to New Zealand most of these works will not be coming back so I have decided to dispose of them here.  Disposing of art works in Singapore is a surprisingly frought business and being able to produce digital art rather than lugging large canvases around is the way to go.

The numbers are in for the opening month of Singapore's first casino and there has been a surge in the February figures according the the statisticians.  Not surprisingly the biggest group to make up these numbers are from mainland China.

At the other end of the 'entertainment' spectrum we have the forthcoming Youth Olympics.  It would appear that it is a difficult task getting the local populace enthused about this sporting event.  Their minds are still firmly fixed on the new theme park at Sentosa and when the roller coaster, which has been temporarily closed down, will be fully operational again.

The public apathy has not deterred the YOG organisers from pressing ahead and this week the Games Song was released.

Friday, 26 March 2010

One Giant Lick For Mankind

The true story of Christian, the lion who thought he was people

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

5 Singapore tech inventions that rocked our world

I suspect there have been more than five but here they are:
  • Creative Soundblaster sound card
  • The original Trek Thumbdrive
  • Match.com
  • MTech FeverScan S3000
  • X-Mini capsule speakers
Read the article

and let's not forget the roller coaster at the new Universal Studies theme park!

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Art Portfolio

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

Tiger claws are de rigeur amongst the superstitious and apparently readily available in several Singapore outlets. This disturbing piece of news was featured in the Straits Times today.

Just why one would wish to destroy a beautiful and endangered animal like a tiger simply to become the owner of a tiger claw amulet is beyond me.

Evidently 59 outlets were found to have been trading in tiger body parts last month and only seven claimed to have known anything about the trading ban. Such collective amnesia is hard to believe. Some 320 items were seized.

The government meantime continues to gets its claws intom the prickly subject of productivity. With the recession-proofing subsidies being phased out the emphasis is switching to innovation and increasing the productivity of Singaporeans.

Alongside this is the ongoing battle to get the birth rate up. The latest ploy is a combo meal which comes with a free card game. You have to be a couple, preferably married or about to be, for the game to be any fun according to the promotional advertising.

And even you are feeling so inclined after a straight flush, I have it on good authority that tiger will not be featuring on the combo menu.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Own Goal

Welcome to the world of SingHub; an amalgam of two separate telcos who in the process of vying for the Soccer World Cup rights, managed to alienate most fans and FIFA.

The upshot thus far is that most of soccer-mad Singaporeans will not be able to see the World Cup.

Enter the government with a new set of rules to try and avoid this type of situation ever happening again. The new law means that even if one of the telcos will have to carry exclusive content purchased by another player.

The forces of the open market have not been in the best consumer interest so it will be interesting to see what impact this law has. At the very least it will mean one less box on top of the TV.

Not that any of the above is much interest to me, as I have studiously avoided subscribing to any cable offering, either in New Zealand or here in Singapore.

I hold out for free to air television although the entertainment fare here in Singapore is very patchy and the acting pool severely limited.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Chilly In HK

These past two days I have been revisiting Hong Kong. After the very hot and dry weather in Singapore it has come as quite a shock (and a thermal shock at that) to experience an unseasonal cold snap here.

Hong Kong Grey Day - Roger Smith March 2010

Regrettably I came little prepared for this eventuality and according to a gleeful cabbie, tomorrow will be even colder. The prediction is a minimum of 8 degrees and a maximum of 14.

This is entry has been made in the comfort of my hotel room, with the airconditioning gauge set at a balmy 26 degrees to thaw out my outer extremities.

A drop of 25 degrees in the ambient temperature between the two countries sure puts a dampener on things.