Life – July 2014

posted in: blog | 0

An eventful start of the month followed by a very uneventful end of the month – as you had probably gathered, the first 2 weeks or so were spent on Holiday in Singapore and Thailand, I briefly mention it towards the final blog post of the holiday, but I ended up with some sort of skin infection on the lower legs due to parasites in the water with the elephants. The week after being back from holiday was spent off work sitting around and washing my legs with dettol every few hours or so, the pain in my legs so bad that at one point I was unable to sleep or walk properly. It has thankfully cleared up since then, though my legs are still kind of scabby from the boils that formed. Gross.

The week off let me catch up on a bunch of the shows that had built up during my holiday time, and let me do my quarterly anime write up which was nice. I also got some time to play the fantastic Katawa Shoujo, and if im honest, since then I feel like i’ve forgotten how to play games, and haven’t really found anything to grab my interest.

The past week (ongoing) has been mostly off work as well, my workplace are trying to switch me from a projects engineer to a mobile engineer – basically meaning im turning into a repair man. They’ve poorly tried to get me to follow another engineer around, but seem to have forgotten to actually train me or teach me anything – It’s all good and easy to just follow an experienced engineer about the place, but doing it solo is another thing entirely, not to mention that so far the calls i’ve participated in have been all failures anyway.

Have been considering starting the job searching up again, though spending half an hour on a job site today already sent me into a mild state of clinical depression, this is brought up partly by the poor management at my current job, as well as my mum discussing that we may have to move house soon – there is apparently talk of a mosque being constructed in my town, and while im no racist, one certainly can’t deny that their community doesn’t bring the best stereotypes with it. If I could somehow find a better job, it would at least give me a chance of moving out and living with a friend or someone as i’ll have to be moving anyway.

Katawa Shoujo

posted in: Games | 0

Just properly finished this game (most of the endings) and I have to say.. not what I expected from a game that came out of 4chan.

Despite the slightly ridiculous premise and somewhat morally wrong setting of the game (not that there shouldn’t be a game about disabled people, but im not sure it was made with the best intentions, at least initially), Katawa Shoujo is honestly one of the best ‘games’ i’ve played. Game in quotations because it’s more of a visual novel or book than a traditional dating sim, however there are a few choices here and there which change the path – though as I understand it, usually in eroge there are more choices to be made.

katasho

So what makes it so good? The story. While starting off fairly slow, and taking a while to get going, once you start rolling down a girls path, you’ll find yourself slowly sucked in by their backstory. It’s surprisingly easy to get emotionally invested when you spend a few hours reading through conversations from the first person perspective, and the writing does a fantastic job of setting the tone and pace of the story – rarely dragging you along for too much more than is necessary (though I did tire of Kenji fairly rapidly).

Most of the girls are very lovable, I say most because I found Rin (armless girl) to be on a completely different planet, her dialogue far too autistic for me (as well as my avatar, if dialogue is anything to go by) to form an emotional bond with. The remaining girls, Hanako, Lily, Shizune and Emi, all have an interesting backstory and an appropriate amount of emotional baggage for you to make your way through.

My personal favorite girl was Hanako, but Emi comes in not far behind at 2nd place – though I can honestly say I enjoyed Lily and Shizune’s paths as well.

I thought the friend pairings were pretty interesting as well – with each of the girls having a close friend, the blind girl and burnt girl, the girl with no legs and the girl with no arms, and a loud girl who probably has ADHD with the deaf girl.

The game is completely free and has some good options for text speed and auto text scroll rate if you don’t feel like hammering your space bar – the prologue lasts maybe an hour or two, and then each of the girl’s paths add another 2-5 hours (dependant on reading speed), be warned that there are ero scenes which can be optionally disabled – I thought they were quite tastefully done though

 

TLDR; Amazing 20 hour visual novel, completely free, surprisingly mature despite concept.

http://www.katawa-shoujo.com/download.php

What you should be watching this season – Summer 2014 Anime Roundup

posted in: Anime, WYSBW | 0

Whilst a common theme anyway, Summer 2014 brings with it a large collection of school life comedy shows along with a small selection of interesting looking action shows.

As usual, opinions are based on 2 or 3 episodes of the show, as such it is only an educated guess into how the show will actually progress and whether or not you should give it a look.

For those that dislike or don’t have time to follow many shows, i’ve added a top 3 this season tier for what I anticipate to be the best shows this 3 month slot.

Top 3 this Season

Note: Space Dandy 2 is in the Sequels tier because it’s technically on its second season – even if the episodes are all pretty standalone. It is easily the best thing airing this season.

Barakamon

Barakamon - 1 - Baraka Kodon - [Anime-Koi](31daa0bc).mkv - 00000Story of a guy going out to the countryside to practice calligraphy, there he meets an adorable playful little girl. It’s a heartwarming comedy, somewhat similar to the fantastic Usagi Drop from a few years ago.

 

Terror in Resonance

Zankyou no Terror - 1 - Falling - [Commie](705b72de).mkv - 00000

A terrorist group who announces their plans before carrying through with them, and a detective who is on their trail… Sound familiar? While the characters are vastly different, and the atmosphere completely different, i’m getting slight death note vibes from this one. In addition, it’s directed by Watanabe Shinichiro – of Cowboy Bebop / Samurai Champloo

 

Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul - 2 - Incubation - [HorribleSubs](7bf4ad54).mkv - 00001

Dark action show, a world filled with ‘ghouls’ – beings which feed on humans and have powers. Seems to be dealing with main characters feelings well, emphasizing on his unable to adjust to suddenly having to live off human flesh, a nice change from shows where the MC just kind of accepts it. It’s an action show as well of course, with the ghouls having powers and having their own territories.

 

Watcha these?

Akane Ga Kill

Akame ga Kill! - 2 - Kill the Authority - [Doki](d71c25cf).mkv - 00001

Teen enters a group of assassins and starts murdering dudes, a slightly basic premise, but it’s done well enough to be interesting.

 

Monthly Girls – Nozaki kun

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun - 2 - Say Hello to the New Heroine - [Underwater](03af5332).mkv - 00000

Comedy about a hit shoujo manga artist actually being a guy, the story follows a girl who starts work as his assistant. I’m enjoying it so far, lots of funny scenes and the main character is very lovable (and has some fantastic facial expressions)

 

Majimoji Rurumo

Majimoji Rurumo - 1 - I Will Grant You Your Wish - [Anime-Koi](6956b169).mkv - 00002

The worst in this tier, being on the border of good and mediocre. Follows Witch rurumo and perverted main character, reminds me a ton of Henneko. These show itself isn’t amazingly good, but witch Rurumo is so adorable that she is basically carrying the show on her own right now.

 

Probably not watcha these

Glasslip

Girl can see glimpses into the future, interesting premise but slightly boring execution – fairly standard stuff for PA works I guess (nice to watch, but stuff doesn’t really happen)

Hanayamata

Might be the best of the bad ‘cute school girls do cute things’ genre this season. A bunch of girls trying to make a dance group. Probably the catchiest OP of the season however.

Tokyo ESP

Seems like a fairly generic superpower action show, some of the characters have some interesting powers but the show itself seems to have pretty bad storytelling.

 

Sequels

Persona 4 the Golden animation

This show isn’t a remake of the original Persona 4 Animation as I initially expected, but rather a collection of side ventures which aren’t really connected to the main plot – Great for P4 fans, but not really worth watching if you haven’t played the game or seen the original P4 animation series.

Space Dandy 2

Still the dandiest guy in space, still 10/10 show – even if the episodes seem to be getting more and more bizarre. Episodes are made by a selection of different directors which make for an incredibly unpredictable ride. Episodes are still hit and miss, but the hits are SO good – episode 3 this season was the funniest thing i’ve seen in ages, and episode 4 is a goddamn high school musical episode.

Sword Art Online II

Honestly really disappointing so far, very slow starting – if it weren’t a continuation of SAO it probably would have been dropped by now because all we’ve seen are some dumb scenarios. (derp, lets come down from my vantage point to fight this guy with a minigun with my sniper rifle…)

Free! Eternal Summer

Gay Swimming sequel, still charming and vaguely K-ON like, though I wish it wasn’t about buff dudes in swimwear.

 

Do not watcha these.

Blue Spring Ride

Shoujo Romance show, doesn’t seem awwwful but I didn’t find it at all enjoyable, characters seem kind of boring for this sort of show.

Invaders of the Rokujyoma!?

Similar to Kanoflag from last season, ridiculous setup into a not even sly harem situation. All the characters are basically caricatures.

Locodol

Bit of an idol show with the singing and the dancing… Never really been to into these.

Rail Wars

Story of teens that work at a train station or some shit, i dunno. Pretty uninteresting, even the fanservice they are giving isn’t enough to keep me watching this one.

Jinsei Soudan

Aka. Kids who sit around in school in some sort of club and just talk to each other. It’s hard to tell if the shows are just repeating or what, because this show feels a lot like Love Lab from 2 seasons ago, and honestly that one wasn’t good either.

 

Please no watcha these.

Sabagebu

Momo kyun Sword

 

Singapore and Thailand 2014 – Overview

My 2 week adventure in Southeast Asia would take me across Singapore, then over to the Island of Phuket for 2 days, followed by a journey to the capital of Thailand, Bangkok.

Following the holiday, I would spend 6 days going through the 2000 photos I took, before condensing them to 1350ish. Approximately 550 of those photos are in this blog.

singthai1singthai2singthai3singthai4singthai-51singthai-52singthai6singthai7singthai8singthai9singthai10singthai11singthai12

View all in Chronological Order (warning: Approx 500 Pictures)

Singapore 2014 – Day 12 – Encore! Orchid Gardens, little India and Vivocity

And by “We’re going back”, I meant we are going back to Singapore for a last hurrah, a transit flight from Bangkok to Singapore which would leave us with around 12 hours in the city before the last long haul flight from Singapore to London.

After a 6am departure from the hotel, and subsequent flight, we would arrive in Singapore Changi airport at around 1pm – a surprisingly tasty meal of Char Siu pork and rice with a brownie was served on the plane.
Upon leaving the airport we’d grab a taxi straight into heavy singaporean traffic, our destination was the National Botanical Gardens, a huge expanse of a park on the outskirts of the city covering 183 acres and including multiple sub-parks inside. Our main focus was on the Orchid Garden inside, we arrived and headed more or less straight for it, time was ticking after all.

The heat hadn’t gotten any more bearable during our time in Thailand, with beautiful blue skies like a parting farewell gift from the country – we would have appreciated it more if we weren’t all wearing long trousers in preparation for the flights – I seemed to be suffering the worst, my dark purple shirt clinging to my chest and back thanks to my camera strap. Eventually we reached the Orchid gardens after jumping from shade to shade for cover, a large sign with an impressive collection of orchids surrounding it. The entry cost was a modest SGD $5 (around £2.40), well worth it for the massive array of orchids we would find inside, a long twisting path surrounded by small clumps of various breeds of the bright and colourful flower. There were multiple zones featured inside the orchid garden, with some kinds preferring cooler or more humid zones, there was also a section dedicated to the breeds of orchid which have been named after famous world figures – the orchid named in memoriam of princess diana was particularly beautiful.

After enjoying the orchids, it was time for lunch, a taxi ride back to Bhugis Junction would provide us with our last food court of the holiday, I opted to try the pepper lunch brand which had been present in so many of the courts, a sort of cook-your-own dish served on a hot plate with raw veg and thin slices of meat. I also took the opportunity to get mugged by the frozen yogurt stand, who were conducting a ‘pour what you want, then pay by weight’ scheme – myself, ever the bad judge of weight would rapidly clock up $5 worth of frogurt in no time – it was good though.

20140718-IMG_4338

At some point during the day, myself and my brother had become aware of a strange phenomenon happening on our legs, a cluster of small pimples on the skin which would later get diagnosed (by mother using the ipad no less) as a staphylococcal skin disease caused by S.Aureus, my brother in particular was kind of panicking about it, whilst I was fairly calm at the time (less so now, after discovering what it actually is as I type this post up in the airport at midnight). We sought a little advice from the local pharmacist and ended up buying some iodine like liquid to tide us over until we got back home.

To take our mind off our impending leg amputations, we headed down into the basement arcade we discovered last time we visited. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has seen some upgrades since then, looking larger than I remembered it, a full LAN centre in the back mixed with a hall of old style cabinet games, and then all of the new and hilariously loud music games in another separate hall on the side – all of my favorites were present, along with some new ones that I had never seen before. I spent a few dollars on taito’s new groove coaster arcade game, an addictive tap along gameplay mixed with fantastic art style and fun music (attack on titan theme anyone?), me and the bro also played some bishibashi before stopping to marvel at the many people waving their arms wildly while playing maimai (aka. washing machine game).

[kad_youtube url=”http://youtu.be/G7tpjr_t9c0″ ]

After finishing up our credits, we’d walk over to Little india (after finding it first), a small collection of roads not too far from Bhugis, the area is so named because it resembles (unsurprisingly) India – full of indians and stalls blaring loud indian music, and featuring badly maintained cars and trucks. it was shocking just how accurate the description was, closing your eyes and simply listening and most surprising of all – smelling, you might certainly be fooled into thinking you had been taken to some faraway dusty market – a far cry from the spotless and borderline futuristic city I was in just 1 hour earlier.
I didn’t really understand why they had to set up SO many gold shops, or why incense was being burned on the side of the road next to a shop selling what would appear to be a kebab skewer of flowers… but it was certainly an interesting experience, and likely the closest i’ll come to visiting the real deal (at least for a while).

Sort of ran out of ideas after Little India, but we still needed food – I suggested heading back to Vivocity for a bit, a mall with restaurants and an outdoor garden and bay which would be lit up by this time. Arriving at the mall, we would only be greeted by the floor of people returning from Sentosa island, and the smell of food being prepared by the various food stands and diners littering the basement level of the mall where the rail system joins, a few snacks were had, then we moved on to dinner – a fairly fancy looking chinese restaurant that apparently serves it’s milk tea in a flask with some liquid nitrogen in the middle.

After dinner, a few photographs of the bay outside and then it was on the MRT to start heading back to the airport – our flight would be delayed until 1:40am, and i’m typing this up before we head into the gate. It’s been a fantastic holiday, filled with many ups but a few downs as well (mostly me catching literally all of the diseases I could get my hands and legs on).

Thailand 2014 – Day 11 – Shopping at MBK and a trip to asiatique

Fairly chilled start today, waking to morning light and the sound of my brother in the shower rather than the harsh tones of the telephone or doorbell. Our last day in Bangkok Thailand, dad had already made a point that we were going to Terminal 21 for breakfast again, the walk to the mall feeling almost a natural part of the day at this point, breakfast would be a throwback to my first day in Bangkok, a slightly less spicy variation of the spicy sour noodle dish I had before, followed by another dish of crispy noodles with pork. Our last day would be spent mostly shopping, taking advantage of the ridiculously cheap prices in Bangkok (shirts approx £2-5).

A train ride to ‘National stadium’ on the skyrail later, we were in front of the MBK shopping mall, less popular among tourists, but known for having the best prices. The mall itself was a little older than some of the others we had been to, but still a respectable 6 floors or so, and filled to the brim with shops. Similar to Terminal 21, each of the floors seemed to have their own focus, floor 3 for example had many clothes shops, including a labyrinth of small shops towards one side, probably a 10×10 grid of small shops, all selling clothing – if you turn too many times you may lose your way, especially since it’s not possible to see any end walls depending on where you stand. Similarly, the 4th floor was almost entirely tech, with literally thousands of phones on sale, along with cameras, tripods, selfie monopods, phone cases, thousands of cables.. etc. I have no idea how any of these shops are making money when there are about 10 shops in a row all selling exactly the same thing.

We’d end up spending hours in the mall, before stopping briefly for some sushi (too hungry to take pictures), from here we’d head back to the hotel to drop off all the shopping, and then head out again to Asiatique. Asiatique is an evening market on the riverfront, the main mode of access is by boat – of which a free transfer boat runs every 15 minutes or so from the central port (same place we got the boat from the other day). This boat trip was significantly easier to take, a shorter trip with no stop-offs, only a destination – and as a bonus, no thai lady screaming constantly demanding money from foreigners.

Asiatique was fairly easy to spot, a giant ferris wheel in the background accompanied by lit restaurants by the riverside and signs and statues for teens to selfie against. Wandering into the market area itself leads to rows and rows of small individually owned stores, there were also numerous restaurants and food stalls scattered about. On the far side, a giant theatre with booking office, complete with giant speaker playing music for a video running nearby, a muay thai theatre show – I envision something similar to the sound of music or wicked, but with large thai people jump kicking each other and elbowing stuff, would have loved to watch it, but sadly did not. Night started to roll round and I got to have some fun with my camera again.

We’d soon head back to do a little more shopping and have dinner, nothing particularly noteworthy that you haven’t already heard, but a great opportunity for us to get the most out of our money, i’ll need to go through my wardrobe again when I get home and throw out old clothes to make room for all these new ones. Dinner was at a vietnamese place (too hungry again to take photos as we ate at 9:30pm), some great rice noodle dishes which were sweet and spicy, the pho was lovely too.

All in all, a little bit of a boring day to blog about, the majority being shopping and/or eating, but it had to be done at some point. I also kind of needed a more relaxed day after the elephants yesterday, my body is sort of a wreck after this holiday – my thighs hurt, my shoulders hurt, and i’ve been constipated for 4 days now. Would have liked to go to another temple or something but they are close at around 5pm, and going during the day would have been near suicide due to the hot weather.

Tomorrow morning we head back, our taxi for the airport leaving at 6:30am, we’ve had a good run in Thailand but we all sadly have work to do :'<

Thailand 2014 – Day 10 – Floating market and Elephants

The phone goes off.. it is 6:15 am, and time to start getting ready for the day. A freshen up and coconut bun/cake thing later and we are in the lobby for 7am, where our tour guide for the day, named Jay, is waiting for us. He is a small buff thai guy, with a friendly smile and good English, off into the minibus we go to start the day.

Around an hour later, the bus pulls into a small alleyway between some market stalls, it hardly looks like much of a market, much less a floating one, just a few small stalls and a boat repair shop from the initial view, however he soon leads us up back onto the road where there is a viewing platform on a bridge. Below us lay the floating market, a series of canals with shops on either side of the water, and filled with boats of tourists and locals selling food. The most common boat shops are fruit boats, loaded to the brim with bananas and more exotic fruits like water guava, pineapple, durian, rambutan and mangoes.

[kad_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wLkgru3O9o” ]

We hired a boat for a few hundred baht, our tour guide coming with us to give us a rundown of the history of the market and everything that lie within. We soon found out that staring too long at a stall can cause the owner to lean forward and grab your boat for a while to try and sell you things, we ended up with a bag of saffron this way. The guide tells us to slash whatever price they offer by 70% to start with, as the market is heavily inflated due to tourism, we didn’t really buy a whole lot because of this, but still got to try some of the food – some coconut pancakes and local mango sticky rice (best one so far). It was particularly impressive to see just how far some of the boat food vendors go, with many bringing full tanks of gas onboard and selling hot dishes like pad thai, others bring BBQ sets onboard for grilled bananas or similar. After passing through the touristy section of the canals, our guide leads us down a more remote canal section before giving us some history on local life, and pointing out fruit trees and vegetables growing wildly on the side of the canal, he picks a leaf off one of the plants and hands it to us to smell – a strong fragrance of tom yum soup.

We’d soon be back on the road, our next stop was the river kwai bridge, a place full of history, the bridge itself apparently built by british prisoners or something, i’ll be honest I was taking pictures while he was explaining. Not too much to say here, we turned back half way because two wasp nests had found its home on the side of the bridge.

Back into the minibus for another hour or so, we were really starting to get out into the countryside now, with rice paddies and fauna becoming the standard view outside the window, and trucks slowly reverting back to phuket style open top buses. Our tour guy requested to make a quick stop to buy some fruit, the minibus coming to a stop at a roadside market stall selling impressive quantities of fruit and veg. He let us have some mangosteens while on the road, tasty but messy to eat.

Eventually we’d reach our destination, the elephant camp, me and my brother were the only ones doing the actual activities themselves, so we changed into swimwear and made our way down into the camp, where we were greeted by some 10 or 12 elephants out in the open. Our elected elephant for the day was called ‘Full Moon’, a female who would piss itself shortly after meeting us. It was very docile however, and let us pet and hug it, we fed it a few bunches of bananas, which it would eat in their entirety with its trunk. The trainer then led it, and us down a long path down to the nearby river, where we would be washing and playing with it.

[kad_youtube url=”http://youtu.be/tmZRnSLkM2o” ]

^Note: Jay was talking over the second part of the video, I muted it because it was kind of irritating to listen to

Full moon enters the water first, and promptly releases a piece of shit the size of my chest, it splashes into the river and then floats on the surface of the water, slowly being carried away downstream – me and my brother stand by and wait for it to get clear before coming any closer. Then the bathing starts, we start by cleaning it with brushes, full moon assisting by pelting us with trunk after trunk of water as we brush it down, soon after however the brushes are thrown back to land by the trainer, and we start just messing around with it. If there has ever been a bizarre adventure event, going for a rodeo ride on a 3 ton elephant would probably be one of them – we’d clamber on top of it, and attempt all manner of posing as it sprays us with its trunk. The trunk itself was strong enough to pick me up with ease, then the trainer told it to drop me and it did. Meanwhile, our tour guide has entered the water himself while still wearing his jeans, and proceeds to use my camera to snap some 250 pictures during the half hour or so we are in the water, a true frank west if there ever was one. Eventually it’s time to take it back to rest, we ride on top back up the hill path to the camp, feeding it some corn along the way.

After washing the river water off and getting changed, it’s time for some well needed lunch, 1pm or so and we hadn’t really eaten anything since 7am aside from a bit of fruit. We stop off at a restaurant on the side of the road and order a selection of dishes, our tour guide plays both interpreter and waiter for the half hour or so. An impressively plated lunch of pad thai, tom yum goong, chilli beef salad and yum woon sen, all tasting fantastic – you would think we were at a 5 star restaurant going purely by the taste and effort in presentation, however it’s just another hut on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, serving food for a few pound a dish.

Then some downtime, the trip back to Bangkok would take 3 whole hours, the majority of which would be spent drifting into and out of consciousness while listening to music. Once back at the hotel, a little rest and relaxation, little bit of dicking about in the gym and a whole lot of blogging whilst on the toilet (literally, laptop on an ironing board and on the toilet trying to clear my ongoing stomach issues). Eventually, it was out once again, back to Siam Paragon for dinner and a little walk around the shops, we had dinner at a katsu place – vary gud, but not as good as the authentic thai stuff we had for lunch. The mall itself was huge as expected, with huge sections of the mall even dedicated to selling cars – this place is literally large enough to have multiple car showrooms inside.

That’s about all for today, a train ride back to the hotel, some mangoes and mangosteens and some more blogging later and we come to the end of another day in Bangkok. Tomorrow is our last day in Thailand – how depressing.

Thailand 2014 – Day 9 – Grand Palace and Khao San road

Today we hit two of Bangkok’s major attractions, the Grand Palace and Khao San Road, but first I suppose I should tell you how we got there.
As to be expected by now, the day starts with breakfast, walking down to Terminal 21 again, i’d have a breakfast of noodles with pork and basil leaves followed by some Mango sticky rice (Have I talked about this before? salty sticky rice mixed with sweet chunks of mango? bizarre but delicious combination).

From the mall it’s a fairly lengthy journey to the Grand Palace, first a train on the skyrail, then through a dock area and onto a boat for a lengthy trip down the Chao Phraya river, a fairly wide and long river with tons of docks running down it – the boats which travel up and down essentially function as any other public transport system in the country, they stop at all the major docks, at which point you jump onboard and pay for a ticket, the main difference of course is it’s a rickety old boat, open air, with water spray coming at you, and a woman shouting loudly in thai at everyone.

The boat trip was longer than expected, and took it’s toll on my brother who doesn’t handle them well. Departing from the boat we would land upon a thick market trying to capitalize on the business the dock brings, multiple alleyways of food and drink – but sadly all of questionable hygiene, with raw chicken being left out for both the flies and the sun to attack for hours on end. Through the thicket of market stands lay the Grand Palace ahead of us, a loudspeaker and signs tell tourists to trust no strangers – and as if by coincidence we would get stopped by a man outside one of the gates, he told us my dad wouldn’t be able to get in because of his shorts, why not go and have lunch first at X restaraunt and then come back after when the guards are more relaxed? a fairly sneaky scam. Entering the main compound of the Palace, a sign and security guard parts the crowd, “no tank tops, no vests, no shorts, no 3/4 lengths, no see through tops…” the list probably goes on. Offenders are shuffled into a room on the side and given rental clothes or shoals for the duration of their visit.

The Grand Palace itself was an impressive piece of work, clearly the result of a horrific amount of Thai labour. Extravagant temple like structures and statues fill the compound, all crafted with impressive detail and repeating patterns both inside and out. The weather would accentuate the gold decals around the palace at the expense of our lifespan – with temperatures likely in the mid-high 30’s and majority of the breeze strategically repelled by the palace walls, we were soon lurching around like the undead and simply shuffling from shade to shade. Other than the palace buildings themselves, there was also a garden area, rooms containing weapons (both melee and firearms) and a ton of monks.

After eventually walking through the entire palace grounds (it was gigantic) it was back onto the boat to head for Khao San road – famous amongst backpackers, and also featured on the Thailand episode of Running Man. Despite it’s fame however, the road itself wasn’t easy to find, and is actually fairly far away from the dock it is closest to, we would walk down side roads filled with market stalls for maybe 15 minutes before even arriving on Khao San Road itself.

Heat was proving to be a real issue, so after maybe 20 minutes of walking around we decided it might be a good time to go for a massage at one of the (possibly thousands of) massage parlours dotted around. At 250 Baht (£4.50) for an hour of foot massage, one can almost see how there are so many of them still in business, as for western tourists that is hilariously cheap for what it is. The massage place we picked had air-conditioning and large reclining chairs, it seemed fairly busy already, with multiple young pretty girls working other customers, that would all rapidly change after we sat down. Our host made a telephone call as my family sat down and got comfortable, then after 5 minutes or so, a group of 4 strong looking thai women enter the parlour. One of the previous day’s we had a discussion about the girls doing massages, my dad claims he would prefer an experienced one who has some ‘kung fu’ rather than a small pretty girl who is there for looks rather than work. As fate would have it, I would be assigned a kung fu master, a woman whose kung fu might be more comparable to Muay Thai (Thai boxing), the hour of ‘massage’ was almost comically painful, digging knuckles into my feet, activating pressure points that only Kenshiro (fist of the north star) should know about, and doing an impressive imitation of E.Honda’s 100 hand slap from Street Fighter. After thoroughly brutalizing my feet, she would finish off with a short neck, back and shoulder massage – which unbeknownst to me, would equate to 2 arm locks, and a double arm lock into knee in my spine. I’d like to point out also, that i’m the only one in my family to receive extra special treatment, the other girls were working normally but mine was really giving it 110%. Apologies for bad picture, didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ but I wanted something at least.

massage

Anywho, we would eventually make it to Khao San road, which would actually turn out to be a long strip of market stalls in front of bars. There was a wide variety of interesting things on sale, some of the more unique ones being scorpion on a stick, and a taser disguised as a flashlight. Part way through walking however, a storm would start to kick up, the market stalls started scrambling to get their tarps up, and light rain would soon make an appearance – a welcome change from the heat.

A lengthy walk back to the docks, followed by a long boat ride back in the rain, and then that followed by a train ride. By the time we get to our next destination, Siam, I feel like shit – a fantastic mix of headache, stomachache and wanting to throw up – likely brought about by dehydration, fatigue and travelling on an empty stomach (in that order). We’d head into Siam Paragon for dinner, one of the larger malls in the world (as a sidenote, yesterday’s ‘Central World’ is apparently the 7th biggest mall in the world, Siam Paragon is at 28th), the bottom floor as usual filled with masses of restaurants and a food court, but we were hungry and feeling borderline ill so we picked the first place that looked nice. Dinner was thus at ‘Billion Beef’, which specializes in thai food and import premium beef, we’d have a pretty modest meal, the spicy sirloin salad was amazing but mind blowingly spicy, same could be said for the Som Tam (Spicy Papaya salad)

We only had a small look around afterwards before heading back to the hotel, I am told we are going to have another day of shopping in the future, but tomorrow we need to wake up at 7am so it was back off to the hotel to write and rest. Tomorrow we are going to visit Thailand’s famed floating market, and maybe we’ll have a run in with a special guest…

Thailand 2014 – Day 8 – Bangkok City, I can’t stop

A really uneventful start on this hot Phuket day, waking up before rolling out of bed to finish packing the suitcase and going down for yet another breakfast consisting 90% of omelette. Eventually, our taxi came for us and would whisk us away back to the airport… where we would have to sit around for 90 minutes or so because we got there early. A short flight with Bangkok airlines later and we would land in the Thai capital, with an airport quite literally double the size of yesterday’s jungceylon building (aka the largest building we saw in the whole of Phuket).

One taxi ride later and we are in the heart of Bangkok Thailand, checking into our hotel the ‘Rembrandt’, a huge hotel situated in a side road, going up some 20 floors or so and having a proper gym and swimming pool, it’s a huge step up from the old Phuket hotel we were just at, and it has free wifi in the rooms, yay!

After checking in and having a quick freshen up we were off to explore the local area, we would quickly stumble upon ‘Terminal 21’ a 7 floor mall with an airport theme, complete with fake baggage check and metal detector at the front door. Each floor has its own gate and country theme and the whole floor uses that theme, you can probably tell what country each floor is just from looking at the pictures. On the 6th floor was a large food court, a luxury we’ve been apart from for far too long, funnily the whole food court uses an oyster card system managed by the main desk, a really clever idea that expediates transactions and is saves dicking about with the small amounts of baht that everything costs. Most main meals were in the range of 25-40 baht (GBP £1 = 55 Baht) so we went completely nuts and pigged out, ordering maybe 2 mains each as well as smoothies and desserts, the total came to maybe £2 a head which is absolutely ridiculous for the quantity and quality of food we had. Of particular note was the spicy chicken noodles I had, with egg noodles and battered chicken covered with a sweet, sour and incredibly spicy sauce – probably the best thing i’ve had this whole holiday, and yet spicy enough to reduce me to a disgusting sweaty mess in the middle of an air conditioned food court.

After some clothes shopping, we would take a long walk down the road with no real destination in mind. The roads in Bangkok are significantly busier than both Singapore and Phuket, the former likely because Singapore apparently charges heavily to own a driving license (or has better traffic management systems). As we walked down, market stalls were beginning to set up all along the side of the pavement, most selling silly knick-knacks like magnets and keychains, but the others selling heavier stuff like sex toys, vallium/viagra and weaponry (flick knives, batons and guns[?!] ).
After walking for a while we eventually decided it might be a better idea to get on a train and actually head for somewhere interesting, the trains here run above ground similar to that found in vidya like GTA or the more recent watch_dogs, boarding it was easy enough with tickets being about 40p after conversion.

Train ride later and we would arrive at Chit Lom, the place has been designed with a ton of suspended walkways so that you don’t even need to walk at ground level with the cars, simply walk along the middle underneath the train tracks – the walkway is connected with the local shopping malls too. We’d get to Centralworld after some walking, another of the major attractions listed on my mum’s map provided by the hotel. We’d walk around for a bit before noticing restaurants and bars on the 18-20th floors of the building, so we thought we’d have a look and see if we can get any view outwards. Somewhat as expected, the views and balconies are reserved for paying bar and restaurant guests only, but the Frank West in me would refuse to give up, and some exploration lead to the exit path for the skybar, and include a lit bamboo walkway and an open maintainance door leading to a balcony.

A security guard would appear shortly after I ventured out, but not before I managed to get a food good shots of the city below, I took a 5 second exposure without tripod which hopefully looks okay, but I have to wait til I get back to my home PC to blow it up and check it out, here’s hoping. The guard seemed fairly understanding and merely asked that I leave the area, we headed back down to peasant levels 6 and 7 afterwards to look at potential dinner candidates. Literally one hour later after having done a whole lap of the 7th floor, and 2/3 a lap of the 6th, we found our place, ‘Shabushi’ – a buffet style shabu shabu restaurant, which serves its dishes by conveyer belt.

Shabu Shabu is more of the Japanese term for the dish, whereas the Chinese refer to it simply as hotpot, the premise is the same however – place a cauldron of soup in the middle of the table, then throw a ton of stuff in to cook and fish it out yourself when you think it’s done. The result is medium rare beef cooked in a glorious soup, then dipped in your own concoction of soy-sauce and chilli. We have never seen a hotpot restaurant where you can pick off a conveyer belt and eat as much as you like, I probably had about 10 plates worth of beef amongst other stuff, the price of 365 baht (£6.70 per person) also included unlimited drinks, fruit and ice cream so it was pretty good value too despite looking like a lot of money upfront.

That would more or less be us done for the day, a walk home along suspended walkways again, and then a train journey before a brisk walk down our side road in the rain, me stopping to take shots at the cars because ‘ooh lookit the lights against wet floor’. It would seem its the little things that make us happy as a family, some free wifi and cheap food and drink mixed with a good helping of air conditioning seems to be all we need to keep us happy.
Tomorrow we are off to see some temples and a river or something?

Thailand 2014 – Day 7 – Patong City

Another relaxed start, waking and immediately scribbling down some notes about my dream (a rad idea for a video game involving time travel and changing the future) before going down for our mediocre breakfast consisting once again of eggs and some bits of potato. I’d spend the next few hours trying to fix my stomachache and using the hotel lobby wifi before we would go on a short walk down the road (on the other side of the hotel). The weather was near unbearable, the sun beating us down like a pillowfight with satan, we would only get half way down the road before turning back and heading back to the hotel, we did get to see a temple along the way though, and had a short encounter with a brave lizard (gecko?) who was kind enough to pose for some photos. Back at the hotel, a cold shower, drink and short rest before getting ready to head out for the day’s main attraction of Patong City.

We would be dropped off at the Jungceylon mall and work our way out from there, the mall itself was probably the most modern thing we’ve seen in the entirety of Phuket, though still on an average level of tech compared to the marble paved malls of Singapore, the shops inside themselves were nothing particularly special, a plethora of beauty shops mixed with clothes, and then a cinema, small arcade and an IT square – which is apparently a fancy way of saying a ton of shops selling iphone cases, selfie monopods and charging cables. Lunch was a rather boring snack of thai McDonalds – they do however serve fried chicken here, and it’s really good.

Directly outside the mall itself, things looked rather nice, a collection of fountains and tourist centred restaurants line the outer sections of the mall complex, with the edge leading onto an open market area and the rest of Patong, we had a brief look outside at the surroundings but only really found a small shrine, food market and some bars (overflow for Bangla street most likely – more on that soon). There were also a lot of smaller free standing stalls selling clothes, the majority of them not busy at all and selling nothing special. Down the end of Patong is the most busy beach in Phuket of the same name (Patong Beach), despite the high waves we still got to sit back and people watch for a while, laughing at people falling from jet ski’s and being constantly impressed by the way the locals handle the parasailing (mounting the parachute and soaring into the air by just grabbing onto the cables without harness).

We’d explore the streets and market stands til it got dark, at which point it became time to roam Patong’s infamous Bangla street, an entire strip devoted to bars and nightclubs, the road closes during the evening and the street fills with bar girls promoting happy hours, men trying to entice you to go and see ‘ping pong shows’ and hawkers trying to literally pedal their wares via mobile street grills or fruit stands. We were walking around far too early to see it, but apparently at night there are also pole dancers in the bar fronts and masses of ladyboys (transvestites) roam the streets, we did see a few ladyboys but nowhere near the level we had heard about. Shooting (photography) here was kind of tricky, the dark meant I had to shoot longer exposures without moving, as such by the end of the night I had become pretty good at shooting at 1/8th by hand.

Other things worth mentioning include a few restaurants where you’d pick your own fish/seafood using a shopping basket then pass it to a chef to cook for you, thai boxers passing by on floats doing demonstrations to advertise their fights later that night, and a long awaited return to the fish spa – long time blog readers may remember this one from Malaysia, where you put your feet in to waters filled with ‘doctor fish’ who eat the dead skin, my feet after a week of heavy walking evidently have an abundance of it.

[kad_youtube url=”http://youtu.be/or1Dwed8LkA” ] ^ Sorry about the rubbish quality on the second segment, if anyone has tips on doing steady moving video without any equipment, do tell.

Taxi ride back to the hotel, followed by one of the more disappointing meals of the trip, a restaurant called chilis near the hotel whose food was very poor, the thai green curry and pad thai were alright however. Then back to the hotel room to blog, shower and pack, as that is our time in Phuket Thailand officially over, tomorrow morning we are off to the capital of Thailand, the city of Bangkok.

Thailand 2014 – Day 6 – Phuket tour

As mentioned yesterday, we were supposed to be going on a lovely scenic boat tour around 2 islands and 3 beaches and some other stuff today, but due to the wind that has been called off :/
An 8:30 natural wakeup for me, the bright Thai sun piercing through the curtains combined with our still Singaporean body clock. 3 flights of stairs down we would find our inclusive hotel buffet breakfast, a selection of European and badly over and undercooked asian cuisine. An omelette and some fried potato would be my pick today, primarily due to a lack of anything better to eat, a far cry from the maxwell food centre we had been spoiled with for the last few days.

20140712-IMG_2888

We (and by we I mean my mum) managed to find a new tour to take to kill the day and help us get out of the resort, however the bus for that leaves at 2pm so we would have a few hours to burn before that, so it was off down to the beach to see how the scenery differs during the day. The waves were going crazy, easily rising a foot and a half before striking the beach with enough force to make its way up the sand for some distance, a red flag perched in the sand screamed no swimming, reinforced by the life guard staying by it. Our boat trip was canceled for good reason it seemed, though it was still upsetting. The beach itself was sandy and a dull beige rather than the bright shades pictured in the brochure, the waves were bringing in all manner of rubbish with it including gas cans, lost sandals and dead vegetation, it wasn’t the most beautiful sight in the world, but then we were getting used to that.

After grabbing some fruit and drinks from a nearby shop for dirt cheap – 20 baht for a can of coke, equivalent to maybe 35p – we headed back to the hotel room for showers and general relaxation before the day ahead of us, the itinerary for the tour was extensive yet only lasted 6 hours so we were already anticipating a rush job but then it’s better than nothing. We had some mangoes from the market in the hotel room, simply tearing the skin off and eating them whole like you would a banana, they were lovely and soft with little fibre, a solid reminder after breakfast that the simply walking down to the beachfront and gorging on fruit is definitely a viable option.

After a quick sweaty game of ping pong and discovering I am definitely not smile (ps. go watch the ping pong anime), 2pm eventually rolls round and our minibus arrives. It turns out we are the only person on the afternoon tour today, so off we go. First stop was the currently still under construction Big Buddha which sits atop a small mountain on Phuket, the majority of the buddha itself has been built but it’s surroundings are still being worked on, constant signs are in place asking visitors to donate or buy souvenirs to contribute to the cost of building, as a result the first area is almost entirely souvenir stalls selling buddha in just about every shape and form, while the upper level is a pretty spartan viewing area surrounded by bamboo fencing before a steep drop into the forest below. The buddha itself was impressive however, with some lovely tiling work, and surrounded by a great view of the city (if somewhat obscured by excessive trees).

 

Next up to bat is Chalong Temple, which we would soon discover is actually more like Chalong TempleS. A barrage of firecrackers welcomes us as we step off the minibus into the car park, the driver informs us it is a celebratory day for the monks for some reason or another, and so they are ritualistically throwing entire packs of firecrackers into a chimneylike structure by one of the temples. The multiple temples on display were very impressive, with marble whites mixed against strong reds and gold, the cloudy blue skies allowing for some (imo anyway) amazing photographs.

From here the tour went on a bit of an odd tangent, we would go to the honey farm and cashew nut factory which would both turn out to be attempts to sell us products. The honey farm welcomes us with open arms before pulling us into a clinic like room on the side and giving us multiple samples of honey… and very indepth explanations of what makes pure honey so wholesome and good for you and so on (it was good honey but i mean…), we were then dumped back into a giant shop floor and left to explore the various honey products – these guys have effectively mixed honey in with all sorts like chocolate, water, ice cream, crackers…
Our ‘tour’ of the cashew nut factory wasn’t much different either, we would come in to see two poor grannies cracking cashew nuts by hand using a foot pedal driven machine before being unleashed to explore a shop floor filled with various nut based products, a linked room next door also had products not even vaguely related to nuts, however almost every snack product had a container with free samples which resulted in a pretty good time anyway running around the shop eating everything we could get our hands on – from nuts to brittle, dried mango to pork crackling and pandan sweets to garlic bread.

Next stop would be to see some wild monkeys, in the most literal of a sense, a little bit of driving later and the driver pulls over on the side of the road and tells us to walk across the road and onto a viewing platform, a scattered pack of monkeys lay in wait below by a dirty stream, walking about on mud and waiting for tourists to throw bananas at them (which are conveniently sold across the road by old women on bikes). It was equal parts cute and depressing as we watched the monkeys eat and fight over the bananas thrown at them, one monkey in the back was particularly depressing – looking like it was dragging a baby monkey corpse around with it.

Rang hill viewing point was next, a part constructed viewing platform on the side of another mountain/hill, I say part constructed in the most literal of senses in that you have to walk through a construction site and step over some girders on the floor to get to the viewing platform, the view was impressive, but marred slightly by the rain which started to fall. We also made a quick impromptu stop at on the side of the road to view another temple, no idea what it was called though.

Final stop of the tour was the weekend market in Phuket town, a gigantic street market spanning one and a half blocks, it comprised of cheap clothes, fake tech (Dr. Bre’s Deats anyone?) and loads of market style street food. It was rammed, our tour driver was unable to find a parking spot and so dropped us off on the side of the road after giving us his number (without country code, obvs). Didn’t really buy too much, but got to sample some of the food and got to photograph some of the others, unfortunately we only had about an hour to wander the market before attempting to meet up with the driver again. We even saw a stall selling fried grasshoppers, mealworms, roachthings and all other manner of nightmarish snacks – didn’t try any because I want no part of that shit).

We would arrive at the designated point and not be able to find our driver, and without any way to contact him we were left stood on the side of the road for some 15 minutes or so, we would eventually receive help in form of a tourist from Hong Kong and some kind Thai locals who would agree to call our driver to come and get us – a good thing too since we had all of our shopping (honey and cashew nuts obviously) in the minibus still. We’d return back to Karon beach just in time to witness a parade of booming tuk tuk’s (the tuk tuk’s in Phuket are filled with subs and blare dance music and neon lights) – they are apparently all heading to a shrine for a monk celebratory day or something.

20140712-IMG_3086

 

Dinner would be at a restaurant not too far from the hotel, the hostess grabbing our attention by speaking at us in 3 languages consecutively (holding a Mandarin menu out while speaking Japanese, before switching to English). We were initially worried by the giant ‘international cuisine’ sign on the front, but our fears were soon calmed when the thai food came out and was better presented and more tasty than the yesterday’s restaurant. We would try yum woon sen, spicy papaya salad, masamman curry and for dessert, mango with sticky rice. All very nice, though stealth chillies present in the papaya salad would have be unable to feel my tongue for 5 minutes or so.

This brings the day to an end, tomorrow we plan to do Patong city, famous for it’s nightlife and ladyboys, we may also try and get a massage in the morning.

Thailand 2014 – Day 5 (Part 2/2) – …We’re in Baht country

We would touch down in Phuket at around 5pm, claiming back an hour of lost time during transit thanks for timezones, this hour however would promptly be spent in a taxi ride from airport to hotel that would last around an hour and a half anyway. The taxi would give us a fair display of what we could expect to see on the island, the majority of the roads and buildings looking old and run down, with dark greys and shades of rust being part of the primary colour palette after the rural greens and browns found on the undeveloped land between buildings. We would see all manner of third world transport methods, including the evidently popular ‘full 4 person family on a motorbike’ and ‘open top tour bus’ on agricultural lorries, these guys are as fearless as the animals, of which our taxi driver almost ran over 3 during the trip. We would also see cows on the side of the road, dogs in the middle of the road and my brother claims he saw an elephant, but nobody believes him.

Legit transportation method in Thailand apparently.
Legit transportation method in Thailand apparently.

Eventually we arrived at our hotel, the Old Phuket, situated next to Karon Beach. First impressions of the hotel were good, with a bus boy to take our luggage and a round of Thai bows and sawadeekaa’s, the building itself fairly grand with a bit of a temple theme, or perhaps it once was a temple, who knows. We were put up on the 4th floor, in a room with mediocre air-con (a far cry from the goosebump capable Singapore air-con) and a balcony overlooking the rest of the hotel as well as a nearby mountain and its surrounding forest/grassland. The room was looking pretty decent, until we noticed the rather odd window looking straight into the bathroom from the rest of the room (perfect for couples who want to talk while one is taking a shit I guess?), there was also a small ant problem on the furniture, with ants going crazy on the table and cupboard in the room – A call to room service later and someone was promptly spraying down our room and removing dead insects with a cloth.

We explored the rest of the hotel a little, there was a gym room with no weights (only cardio equipment, obviously everyone’s favorite in a 30 degree environment), a ping pong table and a swimming pool which had sticky water (or so my dad tells me), we also got attacked by some giant fly / bee / cockroach hybrid, which was not very fun. The rest of the beachfront area (literally linked to the hotel complex) wasn’t too much better, the majority of it filled with cheap massage parlours and market stalls filled with goods made in personal basements if not worse – looking too long at either will arouse the shopkeepers who go into full attack mode, enough to put you off even if you were initially interested. Hawker stalls were present of course, but of questionable sanitary conditions, my current light stomachache told me to stay away though the stand doing grilled fish did look appealing.

Dinner was eventually served at one of the restaurants near the hotel, where we ordered a selection of traditional Thai favorites including Pad Thai and Tom yum goong, the waitress recommended a few dishes for us as well which were okay but not particularly mind blowing, the servings of Pad Thai, morning glory and Tom yum goong soup were very nice though, and tasted authentic, the latter in particular was practically half full with soup ingredients like ginger and lemongrass resulting in a sweet and sour spicy broth with some prawns for good measure.

A short walk around the beachfront once again, where we spotted little of interest aside from a dangerous looking electricity pole which was literally sparking and buzzing. So it was back to the hotel room once again to wash off sweat and wind down for the day. We originally had a boat tour planned for tomorrow but unfortunately due to wind conditions the trip has been canceled :'( Not entirely sure what the plan is now, probably some beach and then the nearby nightlife town of Patong.

20140711-IMG_2882

Singapore 2014 – Day 5 (part 1/2) – Tian Tian Chicken Rice and the Singapore City Gallery

We bid goodbye to Singapore again today as we are flying to Phuket Thailand in the afternoon, our flight is at 4pm so we still have some time to burn before returning to the lovely Changi airport, not to mention the airport is only 20 minutes away by taxi anyway.

After a delayed start due to packing and some stomach issues we are out and exploring the local area of chinatown once again, it feels too risky to venture too far out considering our luggage is at the hotel still so we would play it safe and get some food and doing a little shopping before calling a cab. We made our way once again to maxwell food centre, we had missed out the previous few times due to the shop being closed or not being open yet, but today was the day.

20140711-IMG_2799
Tian Tian Chicken Rice is without a doubt the most famous hawker stall in Singapore, featured on shows with famous chefs like Anthony Bourdain and winner of a cooking face off against Gordon Ramsay, this double wide stall serves only a small selection of dishes ranging from chicken rice, to chicken and some veg. For the uneducated, when I say chicken rice, I’m not talking about chicken with rice, this is rice cooked in chicken broth, in such a way which makes the rice incredibly moist, fragrant and flavorful on its own, similarly the chicken is prepared with oil and is almost impossibly tender with a great taste and smooth skin. My father has been dying to try the food since we set foot in the country.

20140711-IMG_2796

The queue speaks for itself, the food was amazing, and should you ever visit Singapore, be sure to give the chicken rice here a try. After eating we would go next door to the Singapore city gallery. The bottom floor was filled with final year university architectural works, including their plans and models for buildings they think will change the country, whilst the upper floors were filled with museum style exhibits about the country and its design, it was an impressive amount of content to be displayed for free and featured multiple 3D maps of the entire city as well as explanations for why the city has been laid out the way it is. Seeing some of the design process behind the curtains really made me realise that whoever is designing this city is doing a hell of a job, filling it with lots of greenery, as well as ensuring people have places to meet, socialize, and view the cityscape.

We grabbed some kueh on the way out from a cafe, these are small sweets/cakes often made from tapioca flour and as such have like a floury jelly texture to them, some are made from coconut or sweet glutinous rice too. Very nice though.

The remainder of our time would be wandering around some more nearby malls and streets filled with food, a wonder that we haven’t already covered all of the ones in the area (apparently 5 shopping malls in 4 blocks is totally necessary and not overkill at all), not a massive amount more to say there, keep a lookout for the woman eating a plate full of chilli, and ‘tu tu kueh’ which was made on the spot for us by stuffing tapioca flour into a cast before filling it with peanut/coconut and then steaming. We would soon return to the hotel and then to the airport by taxi thanks to our concierge (Bliss hotel Singapore 5/5), the plane to Phuket was relatively short at under 2 hours, and was spent mostly listening to really manly death metal and not asian pop.

See you on the other post~

Singapore 2014 – Day 4 – Cloud Forest, Flower Dome and Clarke Quay

Day 4 in Lion City, we open with a small sample of Honey BBQ pork slices, the shop is just around the corner from our hotel, I had wanted to have some since I spotted it in Chinatown the other day but hadn’t found the opportunity to until this morning, the meat itself was delightfully chewy, with a sweet smoky flavour, the meat itself glistening against the morning light. Then it was off to Marina Bay again for some actual breakfast, here I would wander around looking at food until eventually settling on Malaysian throwback dish ‘Nasi Lemak’, with its coconut rice mixed with chilli and fried anchovies.

Main attraction today was the two botanical gardens in Marina sands, the Cloud forest and Flower Dome, both appropriately named after a high altitude rainforest and a dome full of flowers respectively (creative..?). Departing from the marina bay mall we were immediately hit with what felt like 35 something degrees of sun, the white pavement leading to the gardens by the bay seemingly reflecting every ray of light directly onto us, with a humidity level high enough to kill french elderly. After trudging through and re-admiring the gardens in the daylight we reached Cloud Forest, a high dome which doubles as a greenhouse – it had air conditioning, thank god.

Upon entering the Cloud Forest dome we were greeted by a familiar thundering of water on water, a thick spray of mist flying at us attempting to escape the confines of the dome. ‘The falls’ read the sign, a collection of waterfalls falling from varying heights up to 7 stories high, and surrounded by an abundance of vegetation. Cloud Forest itself supposedly mimics the environment of actual cloud forests by matching the heat, humidity and cloud level of actual high altitude forests, presumedly why the plants can still thrive despite being in a comfortable-for-humans 18<°C, It really shows though as walking through the dome on the first floor you can see a thin mist towards the top of the complex. There were many many plants over the 7 or 8 floors of the dome, and multiple catwalks for you to view them on, on the inside section of the middle structure were some more education exhibits about the planet as well as some rock formation’s (stalactite exhibitions).

After finishing off the Cloud Forest, we had some ice cream for a break (lychee and chrysanthemum scoops, yum) and then headed into the Flower Dome, me with my camera at the ready for serious ‘art’.
20140710-IMG_2678
The dome did not disappoint, though it was slightly smaller than expected due to the lengthy nature of Cloud Forest (which is technically smaller in size, but longer to progress through due to the nature of the layout), I managed to get a ton of nice pictures though, and it was pretty interesting seeing a large variety of plant species under one roof without being oppressed by tropical heat.

Departing the gardens by the bay, we were off to Clark Quay, only a few stops back into the city, Clark Quay was also visited back in 2009. The water colour seems to have taken a turn for the worse, but otherwise Clark Quay was still looking lovely, we took the opportunity to explore a little more than we did last time, going into an underground mall as well as across the river in the picture. Over the river is a small maze of bars and restaurants clearly geared towards foreigners (specifically white people) who were evidently happy to show off their cultural backbone by swamping the place and paying extortionate prices for beer as we walked through.

We would soon find ourselves in another small mall with little to look at, and so we eventually called a cab and headed off back to yesterday’s Lau Pa Sat for some dinner. Carole’s prawn noodles were on the menu tonight, bought from a stand which literally only serves 2 hot dishes – Prawn noodles, and prawn noodles with beef. The Latter was bought, some lovely egg noodles backed by an amazing broth, shame about the prawns however. We also had some more chicken satay on the side and I managed to actually get a picture of it this time before it was rapidly devoured.

Final destination for the day was another throwback destination, Bugis street – near where we were staying last time, Bugis Street is famous for its labyrinthine market which creeps across an entire city block if not more.

We also went into Bugis+ , a 7 story mall which has almost an entire floor worth of space dedicated to video games and e-sports, the Garena Stadium and shops takes up an entire side of the mall, with one side having spectator seating and live events (we wandered into the middle of a live match between Insidious Gaming and Saigon Jokers being played and shoutcasted) and the other side being lan cafe and merchandise shop. Also on this floor, a digital darts bar (like real darts, but digitized boards, it was weird), a board games cafe (pay X, get unlimited drinks for 2 hours and play board games) and on the next floor, another lan centre with some arcade machines. Why my country can’t have nice things like these, I will never know :'(

That about wraps up the day, tomorrow we have a little bit left in Singapore before flying out to Phuket Thailand!

Singapore 2014 – Day 3 – Sentosa Island

Day 3 of our holiday in southeast asia and we are woken up by thunderstorms, the weather forecasts have been shouting thunder and lightning for the past few days but they haven’t appeared until today when we were literally woken by rumbling. Our destination today was the recently renovated Sentosa Island, the island sits towards the south and features the recently opened Universal Studios Singapore, the gigantic S.E.A Aquarium, 3 beaches, cable cars, a luge track, a skydiving tunnel, a water park… I could go on.

But before all that of course – Food. After having a small kaya toast (coconut jam) and changing up some of our british pounds, we headed to harbourfront station which houses the tram to sentosa (funnily enough, this section of the day is almost comically similar to the day we went to Sentosa 5 years ago). Harbourfront train station connects to Vivocity, a large shopping complex with sky garden, a crazy amount of elevators sprawling around the place, and of course, a food republic – lunch there was a bowl of sticky chicken with batter bits on the top, with rice and egg, it was fairly simple, and the rice was a little plain but the chicken had some great flavour and texture to it.

After eating up, the tram would take only a few minutes to reach Sentosa island, we got off a the second stop, in front of a gigantic ‘Merlion’ statue (the merlion is the national symbol of Singapore). A few small shows and a silly little souvenir thing later (insert plastic card, receive ‘blessing from the merlion’ in the form of a souvenir stamped metal coin), we found ourselves approximately 11 stories high and overlooking a segment of Sentosa Island, the view was nice, though there was little to look at as a canopy of trees lines most of the park (a wise choice as the sun here can be a killer), I snapped a few pictures, then we rang a bell for good luck and departed towards the central area to get to the S.E.A Aquarium.

The aquarium was quite a full experience, instead of just letting you loose into the aquarium, a focus had been placed on the history of Singapore as well as an overview of asian ports and commerce, which was kind of bizarre but somewhat interesting all the same. The museum like exhibits eventually lead us to a storm experience, a short movie played laying out the plot for the short film we would soon be watching in the 4d cinema next door, a tale of delivering goods over the high seas, and of premonitions of bad weather and some shit like that. We eventually got into the storm experience cinema, an awesome 180 degree cinema screen awaiting us – then the show began… The camera flies over ancient china, the surround cinema screen completely sucking you in, I’m not even sure if we were moving or not, but my body was in a state of confusion, then we boarded the boat. Suddenly, as you can imagine, we are in a storm, the first person camera swaying left and right, possibly the seats going with it, the seats shake and vibrate with the ebb and flow of the sea, fans attack us from all directions while sprinklers spray us with water mist, all choreographed perfectly with the screen and speakers. By the end, we were absolutely freezing, wet, and somewhat glad to be out of the cinema – a sign of a fairly accurate storm experience I suppose, so thumbs up for that, it was actually really awesome. The story ends with the ship you are on sinking, the theatre actually sneakily drops the entire floor a whole level during the performance and you exit out at a different floor, straight into a huge aquarium tank featuring the wrecked ship you were supposedly just on.

20140709-IMG_2372

The next few hours were fairly standard aquarium fare, the S.E.A aquarium was incredible, with a huge variety of fishes, and what seemed like endless tanks of water, and of increasingly more impressive scale. The aquarium was easily the largest I’ve ever been to, to the extent where it felt like it just wouldn’t end. Here are a selection of some of my favorite photos.

[kad_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwhBsqTKMrY” ]

After the aquarium we took a short break and got a snack, a curry bun and meat floss bun for myself, then after some waiting and walking around, it was time for our Segway session. This session was different to the last time we came, back in 2009 we had a lap or two around a small course inside an enclosed area, however this time we were going bigger and had a half hour booked riding up along all 3 beaches of Sentosa Island – we were lead around by a supervisor so it was sadly not as fast as I would have liked (though I hardly expected them to let us just ride off into the sunset with 4 Segway either (these things retail for around £5000 each). It was a fantastic ride at a moderate pace, I was at the back of the pack where the instructor didn’t really pay much attention, so I was free to slow down and then rapidly speed up as much as I liked, I also got to ride a ton of it with no hands and wave to kids as we passed by. I did however almost crash the thing, instead of following the path I thought i’d try and sneak some off-road in while he wasn’t looking and took a shortcut around a tree up a sandy mound, the mound proved to be too high however and the Segway basically went apeshit along with my balance, no harm done though. We would wind down the day with a short walk along the beach (or short nap on a bench in my father’s case) before watching a show. I feel like now would also be a good time to mention the huge amounts of university students floating about the island, we sat by a phone booth and watched 3 large groups of students stop by before breaking into song and dance around the phone (lady gaga’s Telephone was appropriate, so props to that group), we’d see them all again later while riding the segways down the beach, a massive group of them on an island in the distance, though you could hear the shouting over the water – apparently it’s a fairly standard university practice here for team building and ice breaking, which makes me kind of jealous.

The show for the night, ‘Wings of Time’ is Sentosa island’s kind of finale show that everyone watches before promptly rendering all forms of public transport in the area useless, I remember watching a similar finale show back in 2009, but it seems this is the successor to it. In Fact, according to the website, it’s not even officially out yet, and will start running in a weeks time on the 16th of July. Regardless, we watched the show, it began with an almost painful live action singing segment which went on approximately way too long, perhaps as a way to pad the show out so they can claim it is longer than it actually is, however when the ‘story’ eventually got going, it rapidly got very impressive indeed. The pattern of triangles at the back became a projection screen, and then water mist and water fountains are used to project lasers and lights in an impressive array – this was backed by pyrotechnics, more lasers, more fountains, and even some fireworks. Well worth a visit if you are on the island.

[kad_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wl9L1p4X6vM” ]

We rushed to the taxi stand as soon as the show finished, and got a taxi to Lau pa sat, a giant queue rapidly formed behind us as soon as we arrived, and a queue for the tram back quickly appeared too. Lau Pa Sat is (yet another) famous food market in Singapore, situated about 15 minutes walk away from our hotel in Chinatown, it is most famed for its Satay – the Lau Pa Sat centre itself was recently renovated and is now a beautiful clean foodie delight large enough to get lost in, while a street at the back is filled with tables and chairs and somewhere in the double digits of shacks selling satay. The road at the back is literally cloudy with smoke coming from these old style satay BBQ grills, a small army of cooks placing and fanning skewers of meat all night long for tourists and locals alike. Stepping anywhere near the satay district however attracts a swarm of resellers, individuals who (we suspect anyway) buy from the shacks at a reduced price before bringing it to your table and charging the full amount, they all claim their hut has the best satay and harass until you turn them away or agree to eat their choice. We would have a feast of la-la’s, chilli crab and satay – eventually going through 56 skewers. A long walk home to digest, and an hour or so to blog (yikes!) and it was off to bed.