Wednesday, September 29, 2010
September 29th we caught a plane at 10:30am from Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand, the last stop on our Asian Adventure. The flight was a quick two hours but we felt the affects of the 3 hour time change. We got our bags quickly, oddly scrutinized by the immigration guy, then we were on our way. We are staying at another hostel, K Road City Travelers, and it's pretty nice. It seems to be in a good location so we are excited. We dropped our stuff off and then walked down to a local pizza place for dinner and then we went back to the hostel to map out our week of activities!
Our first full day in Auckland and we got a pretty late start...stupid time change. But the weather was pretty crummy so we didn't miss out on too much. We walked to the downtown area where we literally just walked around all day looking at shops and people watching. Around 4:00pm, we decided to walk to the Auckland museum which I told Andrew probably closes at 5pm, but we walked what seemed like forever anyways. Of course, being right at usual, we arrived at 4:58pm and it closed at 5pm. By this time are legs are aching, we are sick of the drizzling weather, and a little hungry. So we grabbed a bite to eat and went back to 'actually' make a plan for tomorrow.
Since we missed out on the Auckland Museum yesterday, we decided to start our day off with a little New Zealand history. When we arrived, we were a little irritated at the sign in the front entrance. "Admission is free however a $10 donation per adult is appreciated." Then we went to the ticket office where the lady told us the fee would be $20. I understand a donation to be of any denomination...they need to change the sign to, "Admission fee $10 per adult," and just do away with the word 'donation,' it confuses people.
The museum was HUGE and we ended up spending 3 hours there! It's made up of three large floors each hosting different galleries. The ground level was all about the history of the 'Pacific People,' Which included a large exhibit about the Maori people, New Zealands native tribe. It was full of old ships, pottery, baskets and clothing from the tribal people. The first floor was a gallery of Natural History. This included early sea and land life as well as a really cool interactive volcano exhibit, and a pretty cool kids center, 'Weird and Wonderful.' The second floor was appropriately titled, "Scars on the Heart." This was dedicated to all of the wars that New Zealand was involved with. They had a really neat set up with trenches and planes and respectful display wall to all of those who had fallen in battle. The time went fast and we witnessed a lot in three hours.
After the museum we went to walk around the water front looking at all the boats and restaurants. We ate at a Mexican place and then made the long walk back to the hostel because we couldn't figure out which bus we could take.
Andrew and I got up extra early today in order to walk to the pier and hopefully get a seat on a sailboat this afternoon. This is no ordinary sailboat folks, this one actually sailed in the America's Cup in 1995, which is a sailing race and the oldest active trophy in international sports. This prestigious race, also known as the Millionaires Race, began in the UK in 1857. The name was then changed to 'America's Cup' after a boat from the USA, named America, won the first race. The Americans held on to the title of champion until 1983, making it the longest winning streak in sporting history. The particular boat we were on was raced by the Japanese. It's interesting to note that just because the boat is representing a country doesn't mean that's where the crew is from. Anybody can sponsor a boat in the race, (if you have about $80 million extra bucks laying around) and then they put together the best sailors from around the world to sail it. This boat for the Japanese had a crew of 16 men from Australia, New Zealand and Japan. It ultimately made it to the semi-final round in '95.
Since there were only four crew members on our boat all of us passengers got to participate in the sailing process! There were about 25 people on this boat including Andrew and I (who were the youngest) but unfortunately not very many people volunteered. So Andrew and I, and the same six other people ended up doing the majority of the 'grinding.' That means we were frantically 'pedaling a bike with our hands' in order to control the sails. My back is hurting but it was so awesome to participate. I was a little nervous at first, I don't have the strongest stomach for movement..ie: puking over the boat in Thailand, but I was assured that no one has gotten sick before. (I didn't want to be the one to break that streak.) Most of the tourists on the boat were from Australia, one Canadian, a few Germans, some French, and then Andrew and I. There were plenty of America jokes...I particularly liked when the skipper converted the meters to feet and looked and Andrew and I saying, "Those Americans don't understand the meter talk." Haha. The crew was a lot of fun. The day was gorgeous, and really really windy. They said that an America's Cup race wouldn't race in this much wind but it was a good day for us to be out there. The wind was really cold and I was really cold but how many people can say that their first experience on a sail boat was on a racing boat in New Zealand?! It was well worth the time, money, and back pains!
After the boating experience, Andrew and I decided to check out the ice bar along the harbor. All I can say is that thank goodness we had a two for one coupon to get in. It was quite a disappointment. The draw to the bar is that it's called minus 5. You walk in and are given a huge coat and gloves. The bar in freezing cold and everything is made of ice. The bar, the seats, and even the glasses. They had some pretty neat ice sculptures but of course we weren't allowed to take photos. One of the staff members would take you picture and then sell you one for $12...no thanks. The place was neat but it wasn't much of a bar. The whole area was about the size of a medium sized bedroom...and well...it was freezing! I can't complain about the temperature, obviously, but Andrew and I just felt like the whole thing was so hyped up and it was a waste of money. Oh well...it was an experience.
On the road again! Today Andrew and I decided to embark on a short road trip. We rented a car, a mid 90s Nissan Cefiro, and Andrew braved the opposite driving. It might actually have been to his advantage to have not driven for a year because although it was strange, it wasn't terrible. He did a great job! We ventured about three hours south to Rotorua, a city with a population of about 56,000. The main draw to this city for tourists and locals alike are the geysers, bubbling hot mud pools and the hot thermal springs. We only had to stop once for directions which I thought was pretty good considering we didn't know where we were going and I wasn't much help on reading the map to Andrew because I get sick looking at anything while in a moving car. The dive was absolutely stunning and this was the first time we really got to see all the beauty that New Zealand has to offer. From the lakes to the rolling green hills and the trees...it was just gorgeous.
We arrived in Rotorua at about 1pm and decided to see what this place had to offer. We walked the streets a little to stretch our legs before getting back in the car where drove to Sulphur Bay. (Having a car was awesome...mobility is key!) When we got out, the stench hit us like a wall. The sulphur aroma was so strong we both got light headed pretty quickly. It was a little eerie to see that the water was a milky white color and in certain spots it was bubbling and sulphurs steam would rush out. New Zealand has lots of volcanoes and the whole time we were there all I could think about was the movie 'Dante's Peak.' Once the smell got over powering, we decided to check out another site, the Whakarwarewa Forest. We got back in the car, (I love saying that) and drove to the forest. It;s famous for its tall redwood trees, much like the ones in California. The trees were planted in 1902 and have not matured into the tallest and most beautiful trees I have ever seen. There were all sorts of paths you could take depending on if you were walking, biking, horseback riding, or jogging. We decided to take the 30 minute walking trail. It took us a little longer because we were constantly stopping to take pictures. These trees were so beautiful and there were thousands of them!
After the forest walk, we just drove around to look at the scenery. We drove by some beautiful tree covered hills and we pulled over at a look out point overlooking a lake. Again, the scenery was breathtaking. No wonder Rotorua is constantly voted one of the most beautiful cities in New Zealand. Being that it's Springtime here, everything is green and in bloom. I don't think we could have picked a better time to be here.
After the drive, we checked into our hostel and then went to get something to eat. Before finding some food we stopped or gas. $70NZD ($52USD) later, it was just about full!!! We weren't even on empty yet...we could not believe it was that much! We split a sandwich and then called it a day.
The reason for our visit to Rotorua was for two main reasons. To get out of Auckland and see something different, as well as visit the famous Wait0mo Caves about two hours southwest of Rotorua. We had tried to book a black water rafting cave tour that looked really cool, but yesterday we got an email saying that they were now full. We were really bummed but decided to go to the caves anyways, we were already halfway there.
So we got up and left the hostel at about 8:15am. We had no clue where to go, and after trying for a few minutes, we turned around and went to an information center for help. It took longer than expected but we weren't in too much of a hurry and the scenery was just so beautiful it didn't really matter. All this driving gave us a great chance to see the country side. We arrived at the caves and were able to take a 45 minute tour of the famous Glowworm cave. Sadly, no pictures were allowed inside. It's really too bad because it was unbelievable but I can understand that the flashes would probably disturb the glow worms. Our tour guide was great. She was witty and gave us a lot of good background about the caves and the worms. I learned that glowworms aren't really even worms, the are maggots. But they figured glow worm sounds more appealing than glow maggot. We were guided through the cave and then we all got in a boat. It was really dark in the boat and the only light was the glow from the worms. There were thousands of them and they looked like thousands of dim white Christmas lights. It was very cool and I'm glad we took the time to go even though the rafting part didn't work out.
When we left the cave Andrew wanted me to try driving, just for a minute or so. I was really, really nervous but agreed anyways. I think I drove for about two minutes before pulling over. It was a small country road and I couldn't judge how far over I was and it was all so scary. The speed limit was 100KPH and I drove at a comfortable speed of 30KPH while the cars whizzed past me...thank goodness there was a shoulder so I could pull off and let Andrew take the wheel again. I guess i can say I did it though.
The drive back to Auckland was smooth and easy. We stopped in a small town called Hamilton and ate at a local cafe for lunch. It was very cute and nice to get out of the car. The scenery home was awesome and I snapped a few more car pictures.
All in all, renting a car was a great decision and I'm glad we got to get out of Auckland and see another side of New Zealand!
Our flight didn't leave until 7:30pm and we had to be out of the hostel by 10am...which meant we had some time to kill. We started out spending an hour at a coffee shop just because we had nothing better to do. Then we decided to hop on the city bus and drive for a bit until something looked interesting and then we'd get off. About 30 minutes into the ride we got off at a shopping district made up of lots of different little shops. We ended up being able to spend our time here until returning to the hostel to collect our bags and then head to the airport.
Being at the airport was a little surreal. We had been anticipating going home for such a long time that we couldn't believe it was actually here. It was also strange knowing we were leaving at 7:30pm on Oct.5th and after 20 hours of travel time, we would arrive in KC at 9:15pm on Oct. 5th...we basically got to live the same day twice :)
The first flight wasn't terrible, but it wasn't much fun either. I don't sleep well on planes so I ended up watching three movies, a few TV shows and a documentary before landing in San Francisco. I was so giddy to actually be back in the US, I was almost jumping up and down until Andrew told me to calm down a little bit.
Security took us forever to get through and the longest we have had to wait since we left on this trip. After being in the terminal an hour or so, we noticed that our flight still wasn't on the board yet...we got a little worried. Finally we figured out we were in the international terminal, but there was no sign indicating where we were and where we needed to go. Good thing we had plenty of time.
We left San Francisco on time and our three hour flight felt like it took forever! I was so tired but so excited to finally see everyone that I was able to keep my energy up. We arrived and my mom and dad as well as Andrew's parents and a few of Andrew's friends were there to greet us. Everything seemed a bit surreal, (partly because I was in a daze from the lack of sleep). All of our stuff made it and we were so excited to finally be HOME!
After 10.5 (We were only in Japan 8 hours) countries in 13 months,
using countless modes of transportation,
hearing 8 different languages,
using 11 different currencies,
eating interesting local delicacies,
seeing several world wonders,
meeting countless amazing people,
hearing plenty of heart wrenching stories,
and experiencing cultures many people only get the chance to read about,
I feel so blessed have been able to run and relish in this opportunity to learn about myself and an entire ancient world. I want to thank those of you who have been following my endeavors and for all of the love and support you have strengthened me with. God Bless :)
(Sorry no photos...still really slow internet)
Day 1: Melbourne
Having never flown Air Emirates before, we were excited to see what was in store. It was great! Every seat had it’s own TV screen with music galore, tons of movies, TV shows and news at our finger tips. The coolest feature however was the plane cameras. You could click and either view the camera on the front of the plane or one attached to the bottom. So since we didn’t have a window seat we could still see out, I thought that was very cool. The food was great and the whole flight experience was awesome. So enthralled with our entertainment options, Andrew and I only spoke about two words to each other the whole 6.5 hour flight!
We landed at 7:30am, September 23rd Australia time, which was 5:30am Singapore time. Having not slept the whole plane ride, needless to say we were exhausted. We went through customs collected our bags and then found the van we needed to take to the hostel. We were met with quite the temperature change. Australia is just coming out of their winter so there was a distinct chill in the air. I hope neither Andrew nor I get sick from such a fast temperature change. The ride to the hostel took about 20 minutes. Pint on Punt is where we would reside during our stay in Melbourne. Sounds like a pub…which it is. The hostel is built on the two floors above the bar. The reception girl was really sweet and although it looks and smells like and old dorm, it will do just fine. The washer is a HUGE plus! And get this….there is a DRYER! Haven’t seen one of those in 13 months!! Our clothes will actually shrink down to size and not be all stretched out! We are pumped about that.
Not wanting to waste the entire day sleeping, even though we wanted to, we set the alarm for 2pm and took a quick two hour re-energizing nap. We decided to just walk around and see where we ended up. We walked down Fitzroy road where cafes lined the streets and cable cars lined the roads. We stopped for a bit at a pizza place and then continued to walk down by St. Kilda Pier. The site was beautiful, and I’m sure it’s much busier in the summer time.
We called it an early night to ensure we caught up on our sleep and we were excited for what day two had in store.
Day 2: Melbourne
Today Andrew and I decided to make our way into the city center. Only about 15min via the tram, our hostel ended up being in a really great location. We boarded the tram and had no idea how to buy/get a ticket. There was an on board machine but no instructions. We messed with it for a bit before then realizing that it only took coins. So two stations later we had to get off in order to fins somewhere to make change. Once we boarded the tram again, I asked how to work the machine. $7.40 later…we arrived at the city center. We quickly noticed just how many people were there. Everyone was dressed up in either red, black and white, or just black and white. My curiosity got the best of me so I finally had to ask what was going on. The older gentleman told be that the Australian Football Grand Final was the next day and today was the parade of the teams. It was very cool because the two teams in the final are both from Melbourne and only a few miles apart. It’s between St. Kilda (where we are staying), and Collingwood (working class) from just across town. I think it would be a lot like the Rams and the Chiefs in the Superbowl…but the proximity of the towns here are a lot closer. Having some time to kill before the parade, we decided to walk around the Promenade. This was a very cool area of shops and cafes that lined the river. Once 12:15pm came around, we went back to where we got off the tram in order to see the parade.
Not really much of a parade, it was more just the players being escorted down the street in the back of trucks two at a time waving to their fans. All an interesting site to see and I wish I knew anything at all about Australian football.
The rest of the day we pushed our way through the massive crowds and walked around exploring all we could. We spent some time in the famous Federation Square where activities were being held in correlations with tomorrow’s big game.
We then decided to just walk the streets and take in all that Melbourne city has to offer. We heard about a large flea like market, Queen Victoria Central Market. Well, by the time we got there most of the shops were closing up. It was mainly a farmers market and then some souvenir shops that were all selling the same things. We made the long walk back, quickly stopping in Chinatown which was nothing and then sat at a little café to have dinner.
The big game! Kickoff of the game was at 2:20pm so we knew we didn’t just want to sit around until then. We decided to go and visit the Shrine of Remembrance, a war memorial to Australia’s fallen soldiers. Originally completed in 1934 to honor those that fought in WW1, where it opened on the 11th day of the 11th month on the 11th hour, which is Remembrance day in Australia. They didn’t think there were going to be any more wars, so the main building is a memorial to the soldiers of WWI. It wasn’t until later that smaller memorials were added to commemorate all the fallen soldiers in all the wars in which Australia was involved with.
The grounds of the Shrine are beautiful and the inside was gorgeous. On the bottom floor for a limited time, they had six Victoria Crosses, the highest honor an Australian military person can receive. Only 94 have ever been given out, and the six on display also had their story as to why they were awarded them which was pretty cool.
We left the Shrine and then headed back to St. Kilda in search of Acland Street, a recommendation from my friend Jessica. This was a really cool area. Bars lined the streets and everyone was decked out in their St. Kilda Saints gear. They even had a big screen set up on the lawn for people to enjoy the game. We walked around for a bit and then took our seats on the ledge of a fountain to watch the game. It was a fun atmosphere to be a part of. I probably would have enjoyed it more had Andrew and I not been to wrapped up in trying to figure out how the game was played. It seemed to be a mix of rugby and soccer and I’m not really sure. A very physical game and entertaining to watch. We left at half time because we were so uncomfortable. We took a walk by the beach before heading back to he hostel. On our way, we noticed the score was now only a point different. When we left, St. Kilda was getting killed. We stopped on the sidewalk to watch the last few minutes of the game trough a bar window. The game actually ended in a draw!!!! Can you believe it? They let a championship game END IN A DRAW!! Well, we later found out instead of extra time, they will just play a WHOLE new game next Saturday…
Day 4: Sydney
September 26th, Andrew and I left the hostel at 7:45am to board our flight to SYDNEY! Our flight left at 9:10am so we were a bit worried about not being there 2 hours ahead of time but the company that picked us up to take us to the airport assured us that we were fine. We made it o the airport at about 8:30am and the line for JetStar was really, really long. I began to freak out a bit and after some waiting they let us along with the others going to Sydney to cut the line. We finally made it to the gate at about 9am and immediately boarded the plane….whew…safe with 10 min to spare J
We landed in Sydney after only about and hour and a half. Our hotel is beautiful and right on Darling Harbor and within waling distance to the famous Opera house. The day was beautiful so we decided to walk around the harbor for a little bit. It is a very cool area and it will be fun to spend some more time here. Later in the afternoon, we walked about 25 min to The Rocks. A really neat area that was built in the late 1800s they had all sorts of little tents set up with people selling handmade things. I wish we would have gotten there sooner because we weren’t there that long before shops started to close down. We then walked along the waterline and got to see the Opera house for the first time, from a distance. It looks different in real life than I would have thought but still such an icon that it was cool to see both that and the famous Harbor Bridge. The air started to get chilly so we walked back to the hotel, grabbed some dinner and then rested up for an exciting day tomorrow!
Day 5: Sydney
Dun dun dun DUN! The famous Sydney Opera house. This iconic Australian architectural marvel was the vision of a Danish architect, Jorn Utzon who won the design contest for the opera house. A building design well beyond it’s technological years was quite the process to build and it went over budget by about 200X! The entire story is quite remarkable and I wish that I could remember it.
Andrew and I arrived at the Opera House and walked around the outside of it snapping pictures for about 45 minutes before we decided to take the actual tour. Taking the tour is the only way to actually get inside. So for $35 each, we began our hour long tour. It consisted of two different videos, a walk through one half of the house (the other is being renovated) and then a look at three different concert halls. Although it’s called the Opera House, opera’s aren’t actually that common here because the size of the theater’s are actually quite small. They host everything from plays, comedians, jazz concerts, ballets and more. Anyone can pretty much rent it out by the day for a hefty price of $15,000 for a larger hall, to $7,000 for one of the smaller concert halls. They just call it the Opera House to simplify it from, “Sydney’s Multi-Purpose Entertainment Venue,” or so I guide told us. They are currently in the middle of an eleven year renovation. The inside although clean, does look quite dated. Because of the shell like shape, the ceilings are fairly low and you have to watch your head when walking near the side of the stairs. The tour was very informative and I wish we had more time here so that we could have caught a show here that interested us.
Later in the day we decided to visit the Sydney Aquarium. The biggest reason for this was the Great Barrier Reef display they have because we were not going to be able to witness the reef in the ocean. It was a very cool set up and they had so many animals there that were indigenous to only Australia. They also had quite an impressive walk through of a shark tank and the biggest stingrays I have ever seen or even knew existed. It was really great and we were glad we took the time to do it.
Day 6: Sydney
For our last day in Australia we wanted to go out with a bang so we saved he best adventure for last. Well...not quite. The wind was let out of our sails when we went to talk to the concierge. The famous Harbour Bridge has a guided bridge climb where you can actually walk up and over the summit of the bridge while looking at the Sydney sites from such a high perspective. We had our tennis shoes on and everything. Then the concierge told us that it was going to cost us $400!!! We looked at each other with sad eyes because we knew we couldn't pay that much to climb a bridge. Disappointed, we decided the next best thing to see would be the Taronga Zoo, or "the zoo with a view." Built on the side of the harbour, the only way to get there is via ferry boat. It really does have a stunning view of the water, the city, and the opera house. The zoo wasn't much different than one at home except they did have a really neat kangaroo exhibit. You actually walk through their habitat with no fences separating you and the animals. They were very calm and pretty lazy when we were there, only one was actually standing up. We had an absolutely beautiful day and we really enjoyed our last day in Australia.
Australia is one of those places that I definitely want to visit again. I would love to go back during their summer to enjoy some of the summer events they have to offer and I would love to see the Great Barrier Reef. Overall, it was such an enjoyable week and I can't wait for our last stop...New Zealand!
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Spetember 18th Andrew and I boarded a train at 9am for the eight hour journey to Singapore, Singapore! Yup, you read that right...it's a small little island off of the southern tip of Malaysia. The train ride was not fun and they pretty much starved us. No food was served and we didn't have the option to buy any...so it was a long, hungry ride.
When we arrived, we were a bit confused because all we saw at the tiny station were Malaysian flags and a giant sign that said "Malaysian Tourism." Trying to figure out how to get to the hotel, we gave up 10 minutes into the walk and picked up a cab...best decision ever. The cab driver was one of the nicest I have ever met, and he was very informative. He told us about the hot spots to check out as well as the best food. When I asked him what we should do during our three days he said, "Eat!" A lot of people come to Singapore for the shopping and all of the unique food. When we arrived at the hotel you could tell it was new, the Aqueen Lavender Hotel. The room is small and is designed as one of the new concept, space saver rooms. It's perfect for what we came here for and it's safe. We looked at several cheaper options but the reviews all complained about being able to hear the prostitutes working and not to leave the hotel after 7pm....umm....no thanks.
After settling in, we walked two blocks or so the the food court. It was an outdoor eating area made up of about 30 different vendors. Anything Asian you could think of from pigs feet soup to pigs tail ramen to anything in between. I'm not THAT adventurous so I settled for some wanton soup and a water :)
Well I left Malaysia without any souvenirs but I didn't leave empty handed. Yesterday before boarding the train I woke up and my eye was really sore. Not thinking much of it, it continued to hurt a little worse as the day went on. Well, I woke up day two with my right eye swollen shut. So our first full day in Singapore, and we spent 2.5 hours in the morning in the emergency room. A very nice hospital where everyone spoke English (one of the four main languages in Singapore) so my nerves were calmed after we checked in. Not wanting to scare anyone, I kept my sunglasses on the entire time I was in the waiting room. Once it was my turn, they took my blood pressure, checked my blood sugar and then I had to go back to the waiting area. Being called again, I saw another nurse who told me my eye "looked angry," and I needed to wait about 30 more minutes for the eye specialist. I began to get nervous at this point. Finally the eye doctor came and got me. After looking at my eye through a contraption much like one at the eye doctor at home, he seemed confused. Another doctor came in and did the same exam. Now I was freaking out and thinking, "O gosh...they don't know what it is..... they are going to have to remove my eye.... I'm going to be blind...!!!" Finally, with a smile he said it's just a bad eye infection, it's gross, but very curable. Anyways, I was relieved and the doctor wrote me a prescription for some drops. I also couldn't believe that a visit to the ER and a prescription only cost me $67!! Yeah for Asian health care!! Dealing with some embarrassment and a lot of discomfort, I'm going to be just fine, and my sunglasses are my new best friend!
After that lovely start to the day, we decided to hit up Orchard Road, a famous shopping district. Filled with at least a half dozen malls, the shopping was extremely high end but the atmosphere was amazing! We loved just walking around this place. There were street singers, and performers and we sat and enjoyed one lady sing for about 2o minutes...it was great! We spent the whole rest of the day there just soaking in the atmosphere, the people and all the luxury items we couldn't afford :) We are really loving it here so far and we are excited about tomorrow!
Today we got a later start than we wanted, by the infection had spread to my other eye and I was in a lot of pain. I wanted to wait a bit for the swelling to go down so I could open my left eye before we left for the day. We left the hotel at about 12:30pm and headed for China Town...yes another China Town but this was a "must see!" The food is a big draw to this part of the city. We walked around and enjoyed the atmosphere. They had just finished up a festival so there were decorations everywhere and it was really neat. We walked the streets in hopes of finding some treasures, but we didn't buy anything. We sat at an outdoor restaurant and sampled a local chicken and rice cuisine as well as the most delicious chocolate milkshake I have ever tasted!
After leaving China Town we continued "our journey around the world" and checked out Little India. Smelling of curry and garlic nan, we took in the sites and shops for about an hour. Not as much to see here but I am glad we checked it out. We returned to the hotel earlier than I wanted because my eyes were so uncomfortable it was hard to keep them open bit Andrew was a trooper and we rested the rest of the day in hopes of being able to stay out in the city longer tomorrow.
Today Andrew and I were excited to explore Sentosa Island, a very small island off the tip of southern Singapore. When we arrived we were met by yet another mall and not much direction. We thought we were on the island and then we spotted the cable cars. We went in to inquire the price to get to the island and they told us $50! We thought that was a bit much for a super short ride and not really knowing what was on the other side. We also knew that we wanted to ride in the famous Singapore Flyer and we knew that was expensive also. So we chose the latter.
We decided to change our plans and so we headed out to the promenade. The Singapore flyer resembles a Ferris wheel and it stands 165 meters; making it the world’s largest rotation observation deck. It was interesting to hear the stories about how everything that deals with the flyer in some way is in line with the idea of Chinese Chi. The flyer originally rotated counter clockwise, but since that wasn’t in line with this idea, it now rotates clockwise. Eight is considered a lucky number in many Asian cultures. There are 28 observation capsules, which can hold 28 passengers and it takes 28 minutes to make a full rotation. The flyer is also surrounded by all four of earths elements and it is said that if you make a wish at the summit, then it will come true. The views of the city were awesome and it really gave us a different perspective of things. You could also see the Formula One race track that they were putting the final touches on for the big race on the 24th. Despite it’s expense, it was well worth the experience.
After the Flyer, Andrew and I walked to the Marina Bay Sands Shoppes. It’s a brand new multi-billion dollar resort/extremely high-end shopping center. It’s such a unique looking building that we were really interested in see the inside. Too bad much of it wasn’t even open. The majority of the store windows said, “opening soon.” It was a little bit of a bummer because I felt like we wasted a lot of time getting there and walking around. It will be a spectacular site when it’s completed though. Entirely out of our price range, it would still be a cool place to walk around on a rainy day.
We had hoped that the mall’s food court would have been open, but of course it wasn’t and there was no food around us. We were getting…correction, ‘I’ was getting hungry, thirsty, and cranky; so we decided to go back to the nearby Orchard Road for an appetizer and drinks. Guess what we found there?! An APPLEBEES!! My favorite…we went in spilt a small meal and then walked around a bit before calling it a day.
Today was our last day in Singapore and we pretty much had all day since our flight didn't leave until 10:50. But we didn't really know what we wanted to see. Most of the things on our list had been checked off. So we decided to explore the area around our hotel. We went for another really long walked and ended up once again looking at another mall; which happened to be Singapore's first Eco-Friendly shopping center. We walked a bit more, ran into Little India street and ran into a 24 hour mall. We were so shopped out, but needed to kill some time so ventured inside.
After our long time killing walk, we went back to the hotel lobby, soaked in some of the air conditioning and then caught a cab to the airport at about 4pm. Being there 6.5 hours early you might be thinking how crazy that is but the time flew. Thank goodness Air Emirates let’s you check in early, so we would go through security and then wonder around the airport. A very nice airport, we found stuff to do. We looked at a few shops and then we came across some games. Sponsored by the Formula One race the next day, we could race remote control Formula One cars…FOR FREE! Not passing up free entertainment, we did our best but were embarrassingly bad. However we got a chance to redeem ourselves. They had a racing simulator set up for four people. After waiting our turn, Andrew and I as well as a couple from Hong Kong took the wheels. A very hard game to get the hang of because the wheel was so sensitive to the turns, I was constantly slamming into the walls. But after a tough battle….team USA was victorious with Andrew placing first and I took second!
We collected our prizes and went to find a place to sit down. After playing several games of Gin, we decided to walk around and venture back to the free racing simulator. The workers remembered us and wondered why we were still there but laughed and let us drive again. This time, Andrew and I were racing against a New Zealander and an Italian. The race was close but the unstoppable twosome did it again taking first and second!
Singapore was a great experience and it's one of those places that I wouldn't necessarily want to visit again, but I wouldn't mind living there for a while if a job brought me there.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
(As newspapers do, I would like to print a retraction, in regards to the shower situation. I shower at night and Andrew showers in the morning. I thought that maybe the showers were just cold at night since he hasn't hand any temperature problems. Well turns out, I had a bit of a dumb moment...after complaining about the shower being so cold again Andrew told me about an observation he had. He said that when he got in the shower this morning, he noticed that the nozzle was turned all the way to the right. I responded with an annoyed, "Ok...your point?" He says with a smirk, "Well that's the cold side..." Point is, I apologize for bashing the hotel on the account of my own human error...I think I've been traveling too long :)
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Some of the mass graves had several hundred people in them, and some graves were full of headless bodies. Some were just of women and children and some were just of babies. The regime killed the babies by hitting them against a tree. They feared of a later revenge from the youth which is why they justified killing everyone, even the children. Of the 129 mass graves at this site, 89 have been excavated. The monument at the entrance is 62 meters high and contains 17 tiers of skulls, bones, and clothing of the victims. You could take pictures inside the monument but I felt that it wasn't right, so I only have one from the outside. This was really such an emotional experience and I'm ashamed to have never even heard about this horrible genocide that took place only about 35 years ago.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
After a quick look around Andrew and I went back to the hotel to find out how to get to the War Remnants Museum, formally known as Saigon's Exhibition House of American War Crimes. The second name was more fitting. The stuff they had in this museum was absolutely unthinkable. I am ashamed to say that I don't know much about the Vietnam War...and after visiting this museum, I have begun to read up on it. I am sure the tortures went both ways, but some of the things the American soldiers did were horrific. There is too much information to go into detail, so I have included some photos. It was very interesting and heart wrenching to see and read the captions of both the photographs and the artifacts. This museum is definitely a must see for anyone who visits Ho Chi Min City.
Exhausted and shaky we had one last stop on the Cu Chi tunnel tour. We had to watch a short film about the war. It was really uncomfortable because the entire film was about how horrible Americans are. They called the US soldiers devil people and other degrading names as Andrew and I sat there as the only Americans...it wasn't the best feeling.
Andrew and I then went to dinner and then I got a manicure AND pedicure for $2USD TOTAL, while Andrew got a 30 min massage for $3USD. Overall it was a successful day and the Cu Chi tunnels are a definite must see for anyone who visits Ho Chi Min City!
The museum was....well a museum. It was an old mansion converted into a history museum for the city. They had several cool artifacts there and it was nice to learn more about how the culture of Vietnam has evolved.
Later in the evening we again ate at Pho 2000 and then took in all the night life culture. This is really a city that never sleeps and there is so much to just feast your eyes on. So we sat down, enjoyed a local cocktail and reflected on our short but amazing trip to Vietnam!