Sunday, 4 July 2010

Umbrellas and Fleece

Credit cards
An umbrella, some warm fleece trousers and a 2,400 watt heater were the first three items we purchased upon touch down in New Zealand today.

The temperature in Auckland as I type is a wet and blustery 11 degrees with promise that the mercury will drop still further.  Oh for the warmth of my 'adopted city' Singapore.

We had an inauspicious start at the Avis counter at Auckland airport when a rather bombastic Indian manager refused to release our pre-booked vehicle to us as we did not have a credit card.

The fact that Avis had accepted our booking and reconfirmed it with out needing credit card numbers cut no ice with him.  Our plan was to pay cash for the rental in advance, as other companies are quite willing to accept this transaction process.

The reason we do not have credit cards at the moment is that we cleared our accounts and cut up our Singapore cards before we left and it will not be until tomorrow when we visit our local bank that we can arrange for an NZ Visa card.

Finally in desperation we rang a friend and got them to provide their credit card details to Avis; only then could we take the car and make our way tot eh Botany Motor Inn in Dannemora, South Auckland where we are no domiciled.

Another friend paid a us lightening visit to welcome us and left us two packets of nuts to much upon.  A good choice of vittles!

Tonight's supper will be a fresh NZ Camembert cheese, pumpkin soup and soy and linseed toast.  I shall be resplendent in my Chinese fleece pajamas that I bought in Singapore's Chinatown.  This is the first time that in nearly forty years that I have worn trousers with fly buttons and my manual dexterity is not what it once was!

The remaining challenges include finding a place to live, buying a car and coming to grips with the difference in time zones.
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Saturday, 3 July 2010

Last Meals

Singapore Changi Airport, Control Tower, Dec 05
Changi airport  is humming with the replays of the World Cup as I write. Various males are reclining in a variety of postures and a mock grandstand has been set up to add to the ambience.

I am feeling somewhat like a condemned man after having eaten a last meal of chicken rice at the Killeney Kopitiam on the third floor of Terminal Three.

My wife complained of a chilly right foot and we belatedly discovered that the sole of one of her sand shoes had detached from the upper.  Such are the unplanned joys of travel.

Our flight departs at 9:10 pm and ten hours later we will reach Auckland.

I shall miss Changi which has become almost a home away from home this past year as I travel back and forth throughout Asia.  It is undoubtedly the finest airport in the world.

We are feeling quite pleased with ourselves as the combined weight of our luggage did not exceed the prescribed limit of 50 kilos.
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Friday, 2 July 2010

Makeshift Showers And Rain For Hours

The Ngee Ann City Shopping Mall, located along...
It is perhaps fitting that our last ramble along Orchard Road should culminate with a food fair; not an unusual occurrence in Singapore.

We navigated our way under the eaves of available buildings as the rain was both long and heavy. With one small umbrella between us we had to wait on the porch of Lucky Plaza until the rain eased.

Watching the lengthy taxi queue snake its way along Orchard road was entertainment in itself.

The weather has been quite unseasonal. June and July are usually hot months but this year they have been very wet and the trend continues.

This rain must be playing havoc with the showering arrangements of foreign workers in Mandai who, according to the Electric New Paper, have been living in shipping containers and using "makeshift showers created out of water tanks and pipes which snaked along the length of the canal"

Our mission late morning took us to Takashimaya's centre court where row after row of earnest sales staff cajoled us to try abalone macadamia, D24 durian ice-cream and other challenging delights.  For the record the ice-cream was delicious.
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Thursday, 1 July 2010

Signs We Like To See



Let's hear it for a local council in Harwich, England, with a sense of humour.

Eye In The Sky

ERP Gantry at North Bridge Road, next to PARCO...Image via Wikipedia
News today that the ERP gantries will soon be made obsolete by the introduction of satellite technology. 

This may or may not be good news to the many Singaporean motorists who indulge in the national sport of finding side roads to skirt the gantries, thereby saving on the road usage tax that these structures trigger.

The proposed system uses GPS to accurately locate a vehicle and the charges can commence when the ignition key is switched on and/or the vehicle moves into a controlled space.

In Germany trucks can be accurately levied  based on the distance they travel so perhaps the Singapore government are considering something similar?  Their principal concern remains traffic congestion which is only going to get worse in the future.
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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

A Morning Walk In Fort Canning Park





Click on the flip book to see the larger portfolio and then click again.

I spent the first part of the morning shooting images of the nearby Fort Canning Park. This will be my final photo essay in Singapore before we leave.

Fort Canning Hill or Bukit Larangan (Malay for Forbidden Hill) as it was originally is a very interesting place.  It was called Government Hill and from 1819 was the site Raffles chose for his bungalow when he resided in Singapore. In 1859 it was renamed Fort Canning after Viscount George Canning, Governor of India.

Early images of Fort Canning (below) shows what a commanding position it had.  Not many people appreciate that early Singapore had such elevated heights.  Most have long since been flattened for reclamation but thankfully Fort Canning has remained largely intact.

An early view of Fort Canning Hill

A view of the Singapore River from Fort Canning Hill, 1860

The Fort itself was built in the 1860's and was obsolete by World War Two even though it served as General Percival's Battle Box.  After a conference with his senior officers in this fortress he made the fateful decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese.
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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Resorts World Sentosa

Click on the image to view the larger version and then click again

On a whim we decided to visit the Integrated Resort late morning (Resorts World Sentosa) just to compare it to Marina Bay Sands. I had been expecting something as tacky as Genting resort but I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised.

While we didn't go into the casino nor the theme park it was enjoyable just walking around the property and admiring the architecture and art work.

We did witness the 'miraculous cure' of a wheelchair bound elderly Chinese lady who was pushed to the entrance of the casino by her made. She then positively leapt from her chair and walked unaided into the casino; the lure of mammon a primary motivation!
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Something Hairy

I have discovered something else that Fort Canning is famous for - rock concerts.

How do I know this?

For the past two hours a US Band, Firehouse, have been conducting sound checks and rehearsing for their concert tomorrow night. 

There is nothing more repetitive than a band conducting sound checks, clucking into the microphone and repeating the numbers "1, 2" with a tongue click, ad nauseam.  I should know, I once played in such bands and had hair of a similar length.

Firehouse is not a new band.  It, like many others that visit Singapore, has been around for some time and was at the height of its popularity in the 1990's.

Even the 1970's Australian Group Air Supply put aside their zimmer frames to visit the Republic on an annual basis.

The 'Hairy Ones' a.k.a. Firehouse perform live tomorrow night so I am not anticipating too much sleep.
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Today's Print

Path Fort Canning...................................Roger Smith, June, 210

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Today's Print - Vapour Trails

Vapour Trails Fort Canning.................Roger Smith, June 2010

Evening Events

The last 24 hours have been more pleasant than the previous 24.  We actually got a good nights sleep which made all the difference.

We were privileged to witness to two events last evening; one natural and the other man-made.

There was a partial lunar eclipse which could be viewed from our window, although I must confess that I initially failed to recognise it as such and simply admired the symmetrical shadow on what seemed a much larger than usual heavenly  body.

We were also treated to a display by the Singapore air force who were practising  for National Day with their jets, para-gliders and helicopters.

A big Chinook helicopter was towing a  very large Singapore flag behind it while the jets undertook aerobatics in close formation.

Late morning we paid a visit to the Marina Bay Sands resort to see what all of the fuss was about. We took the 502 bus to the Marina Bay Sands hotel and crossed over to the shops.  Needless to say, we were not tempted to pay the government tax of $100 and go into the casino.  After a brief stroll we took another bus to Esplanade and walked to Suntec.

Marina Bay Sands.  Click on the image montage above to view a larger version and then click again.
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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Our Ceiling Runneth Over

The Gate of Fort CanningImage via Wikipedia
The furry haze of tiredness is scrambling my thoughts this morning.  The 'quiet room' on the 12 floor of Fort Canning Lodge that we inhabit has turned out to be anything but.

The first day was sublimely peaceful but on the second day our room was filled with the sound of mechanical woodpeckers.  This was emanating from the space above our ceiling.

We had been told that there were only offices on the 13th floor, but it transpires that above our room is the cooling room for the air conditioning and this system is in serious need of an overhaul.

So for the last six days we have have manfully put up with the sound of engineering maintenance and repeatedly dropped crescent spanners.

Last night at six the cleaning maid arrived with a note and three chocolates.  Staff were giving these to all guests as the air conditioning needed to be switched off from midnight to 5 am to complete the works.

We did not fully appreciate at the time what this meant for us in room 12 20.  At 11:55 pm we became painfully aware of the implications as our sleep was broken by the sound of hammer drills, pipe benders, more dropped tools and the tapping of pipes being maneuvered into position.

Despite inserting ear plugs I estimate we got only a couple of hours sleep and most of that was interrupted. The racket continued all night. To make matters worse the contractors failed to empty the cooling tanks correctly resulting is water seeping in puddles into various parts of our room below.

In typical Singaporean fashion the contractors had failed to keep to their allotted schedule and had only alerted the hotel management at the last minute of their need to work through the night.

If this is to carry on again this evening we will be changing rooms but the management at time of writing "do not yet have the confirmed schedule" which sounds rather ominous.

We have another weeks stay in front of us and will make a decision later in the day as to whether we need to change rooms or not.

Meanwhile the hammering and banging above us continues and the engineer with dropsy goes about his business.

Sleep deprivation is a terrible thing!

Footnote:  We are now the happy occupants of room 1105

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Thursday, 24 June 2010

Healthy, Wealthy And Homeless


Edmund Hillary on the New Zealand five-dollar note
I am now officially a homeless person having completed the sale of our condo and received two pieces of paper in return.

The papers in question thankfully had several naughts printed on them and we spent part of the afternoon negotiating a reasonably exchange rate with the UOB bank so that we could transfer our capital back to New Zealand.

Currency Trading For DummiesWatching the highly volatile exchange rates is a fraught, especially at the moment where the political demise of an Australian Prime Minister coupled with the machination of the Euro have conspired to drive the $NZ skywards.

Fortunately the Singapore dollar has remained marginally higher than the New Zealand dollar which is in our favour.

To think that some people actually enjoy playing with currencies and do so for a living.  There seems to be little science to beating the odds, just a lot of shear luck.
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Sunday, 20 June 2010

The Saturday Bird Fanciers

Each Saturday a group of men (for this is male preserve) gather under the HDB block  near the Queenstown Public Library.  They hang up their caged birds and judge them on their singing abilities.

I passed them on my way to the library and took a quick photo on my 2 megapixel phone camera.

And So To Fort Canning

This is the view of Fort Canning from our 'Superior Room' at Fort Canning Lodge; the YWCA.  We have just shifted in with our worldy possessions and a very convenient spot it is.

A nice large space with all of the things we need for the next two weeks, free internet access and breakfasts for two - all for $S145 per night.  When you compare this to the cost of hotels in this part of the city it is outstanding value.  We negotiated a good rate with Billy their sales manager as we were staying for almost a fortnight.

Plaza Singapura is a major shopping centre in ...To get to Orchard Road we walk through the back of the Park Mall building and take the lift down to the Penang Road level.  Then we simply walk across to the Doby Ghaut station and cross over to Plaza Singapura Mall.

Carrefour supermarket is situated there and this is where we will buy most of our evening meals to bring back to the room.

This French chain sells everything from bikes to bagels and we have often bought our coffee from them.  I expect I will become quite familiar with their pastry counter over the next fortnight.

Tomorrow we will return to our condo for a couple of hours just to complete a final hand-over cleaning.  Then we lock up and on Tuesday hand over the keys to our lawyer so that she can complete the sale process.
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Friday, 18 June 2010

Another Day Of Trading In The Library

"You've got to get here quick" William said to me.  William and I had only just met in the queue outside the Queenstown Library plate glass doors.

"But the Library doesn't open until ten" I said.

"That's so" he said "but you are lucky today as there is drizzle".  Drizzle I found out later means that the normally large queue was nowhere to be seen.

I had arrived at 9:30 am, by accident rather than design as I thought the place opened earlier.  My desperation was prompted by the fact that my Singnet account has been successfully disconnected as we had requested. So I now have to resort to using the free Wireless@SG service which I signed up for last month.

The Electronic Day Trader: Successful Strategies for On-line TradingIn truth this is my second visit today and this segment is written at 3 pm in the afternoon, the library being only a short 15 minute walk from our condo.  William I note is still here since morning as are several familiar faces from the earlier queue.

You make well ask "What do they do all day?" 

I was asking myself the same question but I believe I now have the answer.

Many are Day Traders;  share trading online and watching the ebb and flow of the stock market charts, before they commit to a sale or purchase.

The is a favourite past time for many people and a significant percentage of the population make their living in this manner

This then is composed in the air conditioned comfort of the first floor of the Library.  I have taken William's advice and managed to secure one of the large desks by the window.

"Free power and free broadband, why not good?" as he put it so succinctly.
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Thursday, 17 June 2010

Unlucky For Some

Lucky Plaza was anything but yesterday morning.  In the space of two short hours Singapore received 60% of a normal June month's rainfall.

This resulted in the worst flooding of Orchard Road for at least two decades.

One of the root causes (if you will excuse the pun) was debris blocking the culverts that divert water to the underground Stamford canal.




This will be my last posting for a little while as in a few hours time my Singnet broadband account will be cut off as we prepare to depart our condo.
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Designing My Own Range Of Merchandise

 


I have spent an exciting morning adding product into my new online store.  It is a great way to utilise designs and images that I have collected over the years.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

A Whale Of A Tale

It's strange but true
that whale poo
according to the pundits
can clear the world of CO2
so lets have it
in abundance

Roger Smith  June 2010

Source: Sperm whale faeces 'helps oceans absorb CO2'

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Monday, 14 June 2010

Hollow Echoes

The Singapore Skyline v2Image via Wikipedia
This is the final week in our condo and with all the boxes gone the place has a hollow echo.  I have never tired of looking out our lounge window at the changing Singapore skyline, with its steady procession of cranes as new buildings rise from their foundations.

I have watched the tropical storms come and go and felt the building reverberate to the sound of the thunder.

The night view is particularly attractive with the various coloured lights from the high rises much in evidence.

Just this morning I watched a large raptor ride the the thermals above Margaret Drive as it searched for prey hundreds of feet below.

These past three and a half years have been my first experience of apartment living. While I have enjoyed the change, it is fair to say that my wife has regarded it as a form of penal servitude and longs for the quietness of New Zealand. She is a Singaporean and has not enjoyed coming back whereas I have always felt a strong affinity to Singapore, going back to the 1980's when I first  visited.

Straying from the Flock: Travels in New ZealandTo put it into context, I doubt I would enjoy going back to the town of my birth to live either.  Not that there is anything wrong with Waitara I hasten to add, it is just that we have nothing in common and the childhood memories are largely of wild west coast beaches and burning black sand in the heat of summer.  I have moved on.

The BBC World Service is broadcasting in the background as I write this.  What a marvelous thing quality radio journalism is.  It has keep us connected with the wide world during our time here; in a way that local media simply does not.

I only hope that we can get the World Service in New Zealand.  I recall it was privately sponsored by a wealthy NZ businessman several years ago but I am not sure if the service still exists?  There is a web site which says that the service still exists on 810 AM so here's hoping.

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Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Coming Storm

The Coming Storm   ................................................   Roger Smith  June  2010

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Another Sixties Icon Passes On

Crispian St. Peters, a British pop singer of the ’60s best known for his buoyant hit “Pied Piper” and his soulful version of “You Were on My Mind,” has died at his home in Swanley, Kent, England. He was 71.


Friday, 11 June 2010

Football Fever

Korean fans during 2006 World Cup SoccerImage by iccsports via Flickr
There is somewhat of a malaise inflicting Singapore, indeed the whole of Asia.

World Cup fever has struck even the most balanced individuals and there  appear to be only a few exceptions.  I am one of the latter as I have not mortgaged my condo to take out a premium cable package with Singtel or Starhub.

I  have very little interest in soccer as most of the players seem to spend inordinate amounts of time writhing of the ground and faking injuries trying to incur a penalty. 

The local S League takes this masquerade one step further with players being carried off on stretchers at regular intervals, only to rise Lazarus-like as they reach the sidelines.

Give me a real man's game anytime.  Rugby is the code I and most New Zealanders were brought up with and it the one that I still follow.  The 'real' world cup will take place next year in New Zealand.
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Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Slashed Fares, Red Elbows And Tagged Trains

Nat King Cole
To quote the late Nat King Cole, "Unforgettable" or perhaps it should be "Unbelievable"!

Having just spent nearly $S1,800 for a one way ticket from Singapore to Auckland I read in the NZ Herald online today that Jet Star is going to launch a direct Auckland / Singapore service and will be offering promotional fares set at $NZ100.

I would be quite happy to forgo the in-flight meal and pay for my own cheese and crackers en-route if I could save $1,000.

The only fly in the ointment is that they have yet to secure regulatory approval but one would hope that this was forthcoming.  It will be interesting to see what Singapore Airlines' response will be.

Also occupying Singaporean's minds this week is the revelation that some mindless twits broke into the MRT train yards and graffiti bombed one of the trains (video below).  It turns out it was a Swiss software consultant and a Briton (who has high tailed it to Hong Kong) who carried out the dastardly deed.





What at first glance may seem to be a stupid piece of vandalism has more sinister overtones as it has exposed lax security at the depot.  The threat of bombing is very real and the fact that two individuals could so effortlessly break into the depot yard has not pleased the authorities in the least.

Such acts normally carry a caning sentence in Singapore.  An American by the name of Michael Fay was sentenced in 1994 for a similar spate of vandalism and received four strokes of the rattan cane for his troubles.

There is a bizarre footnote to this story.  It took two days for someone to report the incident.  Reportedly, the MRT staff mistook the vandalism for commercial advertising, no doubt with the recent Singtel post box graffiti still etched into their conscience.

And finally for shear hard luck comes the story of the woman who was walking past the Istana and had a tree fall on her. She is said to be suffering from "redness of the elbow".
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Today's Print

If Matisse designed Orchard Road

Monday, 7 June 2010

Bubble, Bubble, Toil And Packing

The Battle Box, Underground Far East Command C...
There is an all pervasive smell of cardboard cartons around our condo, mixed with the distinctiove odour of plastic bubble wrap gently simmering in the tropical sun.

This hopefully will be our final day of packing (which we are personally undertaking) and the removal company arrives on Friday to pack out my PC and take away the consignment.

Tomorrow I unplug this PC and resort to using my laptop.  Hopefully the transition will be relatively painless but it will mean fewer blog posts until the last week of June when we are in our temporary Singapore digs, at Fort Canning Lodge.

While we are staying there I hope to take a wander on the Fort Canning hill to visit the Battlebox complex (pictured) which was the HQ for the Malaya High Command.

It is some 9 metres underground.  The former British Far East Command Centre in the Second World War years was built in 1926 and is now being converted into a hotel.

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