Sunday, 2 May 2010

Crossing Merdaka Bridge

Concourse level, Queenstown MRT Station on the...Queenstown MRT                      Image via Wikipedia
In the old days a funeral procession always included a trip to Merdaka Bridge to encourage the soul to cross over to the other side.

Nowadays the procession in Queenstown detours near the MRT over-bridge as a substitute.

If one believes in a spiritual presence (and I am not sure that I do) then a good proportion of my spirit will forever be in Singapore.

Arriving at Changi airport has always felt like coming home and this has been particularly noticeable during my time with the British Council as I have been travelling frequently in South East Asia.  It is a strange experience as I can honestly say that I have not felt that about any other port of entry.

This is also my first entry typed from the Queenstown library using the free wireless@sg network. I am in the "quiet" reading room of the library which has just celebrated its 50th birthday.

Yesterday we went back to the food court at Anchorpoint; hadn't been for several months since the free bus from the Queenstown MRT re-routed to Tiong Bahru. They do say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and I was really looking forward to my favourite - Village Smoked Chicken. A bit of a misnomer as an entire village isn't involved in the culinary process.

The stall no longer exists!  The long hours didn't mix with a young family and so they have closed down.  A tragedy and I will leave Singapore with happy memories of the meals they produced.

So perhaps it is time to go, as the places I frequent change hands.  Where and what we will eat when we return to New Zealand mid year has yet to be decided.

We will cross that bridge when we come to it.
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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Tanglin Morning

Tanglin Morning...................................Roger Smith, April 2010

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Morning After

This morning I awoke with the realisation that I had handed in my notice the day before and had made a commitment to return to New Zealand by mid year.

After four years it is time to re establish ones roots and to do so before one qualifies for the pension.

So I leave a job that I have thoroughly enjoyed with the British Council, as well as the many friends that I have made in my time here.

Naturally there is a feeling of sadness but this is tempered by the reality that one day I would have to return and it is probably better to do so while being still  'hearty in mind and  limb'.

Today we ordered a new Dell laptop and I paid an unexpected visit to the dentist -  total cost well over $2,500!  This is the sort of thing that always comes out of the blue at a time when you are facing financial pressure.

I can also never work out why a one way airfare is so expensive compared to a return ticket? Singapore Airlines is no exception to this rule.

We will cope nevertheless, having been frugal in our habits during our time in Singapore.

On the subject of returning home I note in today's paper that the PM is hoping Singaporeans based overseas will realise the country's developments and economic growth particularly after the financial crisis and return home soon.

To be frank I doubt if this inducement will work to any great degree.  Many of the Singaporeans I have talked to yearn to live and work overseas but they are unable to do so due to family commitments.

Selling Condos

The market has been picking up so we decided to put our condo on the market.  Loh and behold within a month we had an offer we could comfortably accept.

Singapore Real Property GuideThis new reality makes life considerably easier as we consider our options for the future, unemcumbered by the need to sell a property.

As a seller one pays an agent 2% of the purchase price as a commission.  In our particular complex there have been several 3+1's sold during the past month but 2 bedrooms units such as ours (2+1 to use their popular title) are harder to find.

In the current market one aims to get over $1,000 per sq foot.  Unlike New Zealand, the property market swings in Singapore are far more pronounced.  Having bought in just before the start of the last boom we have made a nice capital gain over the three years of our occupancy.

The purchaser first secures a fortnight's option on the property and if still satisfied at the end of this short period, the sale is then confirmed.  Most settlement periods after eight to ten weeks after the sale confirmation.

As our buyer has since confirmed, this means that we move out mid June.  The Singapore property market is like riding a wave with larger peaks and troughs than one finds in New Zealand.  We were fortunate to buy three years ago before the last buying frenzy took hold. Fortuitously we are also not selling in a cycle of depressed prices.

Now comes the joy of packing up although in our case we have given the buyer all of our furniture.  To pack furniture and freight it overseas is simply not economically viable.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Hanoi Panorama

Hanoi Panorama After Gauguin - Roger Smith, April 2010

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Plastic Swans and Fishing Poles

It's raining again in Hanoi and I watched the motor cyclists negotiating the slippery streets this morning as I breakfasted in the Sofitel hotel.

Each rider is wearing an over large poncho which resembles a large plastic ground sheet and flaps dangerously near the rear wheel as they progress.

The heads of pillion passengers (and there are quite a few) emerge from a rear flap in the ground sheet and it is not unusual to see large cases of bundles of goods wedged between the rider and his or her passenger.

The roads are filthy and I can only imagine in what condition they arrive at their destination.

Last evening there was a temporary clearing of the clouds so I went for a stroll alomng the foreshore of West Lake and watched families in swan peddle boats enjoying the climatic respite.  Nearby a group of school boys were crouched over a tortoise that they were teasing with a stick.

There were isolated groups of fishermen who use a combination of a pole and plastic spool to cast out their lines.  This activity is evidently quite illegal and they scarper at the first sign of the local police.

As with many such water ways in Asia the illusion of beauty is quickly dispelled if one views it close up.  West Lake carries the debris of the city and its grey green waters are malodorous.

While I was enjoying the evening a man rushed past me and down the steps.  Once he had finished urinating into the lake he casually retraced his steps, mounted his scooter and departed.

It was about this time that I too decided to leave the foreshore.  The many flower vendors I encounted on my return journey partially restored my relief in the beauty of the city.

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.