Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Break Part I - Singapore

This year's Spring Break was the first time in our marriage that we've both had the same week off of school. In Cairo, since we worked in different schools, we seemed always to have different school calendars, which meant that we had to limit our travels to long weekends (as we spend our summers in the US). This was a bit limiting, as there is only so far you can travel in a weekend (and still be back home in time to go to work on Monday). Well, in honor of this, our first joint Spring Break, we decided to venture further afield than ever before - and visit Australia.

Australia is not on the way to anywhere, so flights there seem to be generally very expensive. Luckily, there are a number of budget airlines here in Asia, each of which service different cities in Australia. We found a sale on tickets to Perth (in Western Australia) on "Tiger Airways." To help our American friends envision Tiger Airways - imagine Southwest Airlines then strip away all remaining frills and a fair dose of passenger dignity. Also, imagine the world's tiniest seats (designed, no doubt, with petite Asian posteriors in mind, rather than ample American rumps). That's Tiger Airways.

Tiger is based out of Singapore, and nearly all their flights are routed through there. On our way to Perth, we found ourselves with an 18 hour layover in that city. Usually that sort of layover would be a bit of a nightmare, but we decided to make an adventure out of it. We booked a hostel in the city, where we slept a few hours, then set out for a quick 1 day self-guided tour of the city center. Here are some of the highlights of that day:

I think this is the Singapore most people envision. Tall sky-scrapers, blue tropical skies, and general cleanliness. Those things are all true, although I think most people forget that "tropical" is usually a synonym for "sweaty." Singapore is situated only 1 degree north of the equator, so it is a place of both extreme humidity and intense sunshine. We both lost a few pounds of water weight walking around the city.

I think the second most widely-known fact about Singapore centers around its quirky legal system. As mentioned earlier, Singapore is a city of great cleanliness and order. This situation is no accident, and the city indeed does seem to have a law for everything. Its most famous law is the one centering around chewing gum. It is illegal to possess (god forbid chew) gum in Singapore. Emily pretty much always carries gum in her purse, and on our first morning in Singapore, we discovered that she still had half a packet of the contraband with her. As we were already technically breaking the law by simply having gum in our possession, we decided to fully embrace the lawless lifestyle and chew gum. We tried to be discreet, although I think we attracted a few stares when we took the above picture.

I can't offer much comment on the above picture, except to note that the building in the background is one of the newest additions to Singapore's skyline. It's the "Marina Bay Sands" hotel, with a roof-top swimming pool that's famous throughout the far east. We didn't bother going inside.

Whenever we visit a new country, we try to send a postcard to our nephews Daniel and Benjamin (Rob & Stacy's kids). The twins are two and a half years old, and we've been mailing them postcards since the week that they were born (we were in Thailand that summer). Although they can't yet read them, their mom is saving these postcards for them. We hope that one day these postcards will inspire the boys to be curious about the world beyond their hometown. The above picture is the first time I've been able to capture Emily in the act of writing one of these postcards.

I think that for me (Brad), there are two things that I'll remember about our one day in Singapore. First, the food (it's an amazing mix of Thai, Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Western cuisine. I could definitely see myself putting on a few pounds if I lived in Singapore). Secondly, the architecture. Singapore, like Hong Kong, was a British colony since the mid 1800's. Compared to Hong Kong, Singapore's downtown area seems to have a higher proportion of colonial buildings to modern skyscrapers. It seemed that everywhere we looked, there was a nineteenth century colonial structure (like the police station above) with a modern steel-and-glass office building next door. My favorite, however, was the Anglican Cathedral (below). Surrounded by well-groomed green grass and sweeping banyan trees, it seemed to embody the colonial experience: a tiny piece of Europe transplanted into the heart of the tropics. Note the intense blue skies and gathering rain clouds (the afternoon rains came about half an hour after I took this picture).

That afternoon, after a quick walk around downtown Singapore, we headed back to the airport for the last leg of our trip to Perth. We'll write about our adventures in Australia over several blog posts. A sneak peek at our next post: Rottnest Island.

Feel free to comment on anything you like. If you need some prompting, try this topic: Do you think it was an accident that Emily brought gum to Singapore, or was this a premeditated act, perhaps the first in a pattern of open rebellion against authority in general?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Down under

We are off to Australia in 1 hour....I better get home and make sure everything is ready to go!We are making sure to get to the airport early because with our credit cards we get into the elite travelers lounge, makes me feel like an important person. But then we are getting onto a budget airline and will feel less important immediately. Next post after we get back. Happy Spring Break

Monday, March 14, 2011

Buble, Lama Island and Kousherie

We had a very fun filled weekend.
(for your listening pleasure)

Friday: Ruthie (or Anne as she is referred to here in HK) and I went to see Michael Buble in concert. Ruthie was sad to find out that he is engaged to be married, so her chances at marrying him are getting slimmer *sigh* We had pretty good seats and got to sing all our favorite songs. Ruthie and I even had a sleep over at her house and I slept on what I think has to be the hardest mattress in the world!

Saturday: Brad and Rudy met us down in Central and we went on a ferry to Lama Island. Our pup has to be one of the best traveled animals in the world. He has been on planes, ferries, taxis and buses. We all loved hiking around, sitting on the beach and enjoying gorgeous 70 degree weather. We ate in the cutest little vegetarian restaurant on Lama and felt like we were back in Portland.

Sunday: We all headed to church and to our Sunday lunch spot of late (McDonalds, it is a bit scary how much we eat there now that we are in HK). We then went to a different church to meet up with some Egyptians who are in HK as part of their immigration (to some unknown western country) process. It was fun to talk Arabic! Then continuing on in the Egypt theme we had Ruthie and her two roommates over for dinner and make Kousherie (the national dish of Egypt, sorry Tyler).

We are off to Australia on Friday after work and can hardly wait for Spring break to start!