Sunday, November 04, 2007

Singapore - Wonderful Lies

It's been a week and half since I got back from Singapore, and I can almost certainly say that never in my life have so many things happened in the space of twenty four hours. It was a delight to see how much effort we all put into our time together, combined with levels of sneakiness and gullibility that I suppose only happens when you are good friends.

The foundation to the weekend was to fly to Singapore to scare the shit out of Markus, who had left Taipei a week before. Personally speaking, I would have been more than happy to shock the crap out of him, have a few beers with the guys for the last time and turn round and go back to Taiwan again. Things began to escalate in the most delightful way when Anke and Lars announced that they were jumping on a plane from Shanghai to reunite the Asus team once more, complete.

And this is how things started. I landed, waited out the back of their house and stormed the place armed with digital camera to catch Markus' face (which more or less maintained the same expression for the rest of the weekend) and record the incredible intake of breath when I barged through the back door; I believe Tanja was spinning a tale of a local Chinese man who enjoys running around naked, so Markus was obviously on guard.

We looked after ourselves, to an extent, and went to bed. Team Shanghai arrived at early doors, and they grabbed a couple of hours in the front room. A huge breakfast was prepared, and once again they waited out the back. Markus had asked, rather wistfully, whether Anke & Lars would be coming, so when they too came smashing through the door Markus was clearly quite moved.

Anke & Lars wait out the back with a well deserved mug of latte

Breakfast together!

And such the weekend began, celebrating Markus leaving the island... and it is at this point that the ulterior plans of the weekend began to unveil.

Now, we were told to dress smart and hand over our passports. We were not sure if we were heading to Indonesia or Malaysia, but this seemed fairly plausible. The flowers that arrived too, seemed perfectly logical. It was Deepavali in Singapore at the time (the loudest festival in Asia), so flowers were everywhere. And when we arrived at the harbour for our awaiting boat, still nobody asked too many questions (except Lars, who was complaining that Michael had truly become Singaporean, in finally ordering a tour guide).

"Passports please!"

Off we launched, beers in hand and the wind in our hair. We plotted a course through supertankers and fishing boats until we were almost at 'Sisters Island' and the destination for our picnic. Michael, who had been rather quiet for a few minutes, chose this moment to stand up and make his own announcement - that Tanja and he planned to be married, and the tour guide was in fact the solemniser, and 'why did he need our passports?'... because we were witnesses! The truth reveals itself!

Several minutes of wide eyed, wide mouthed wide eveything'd shouting, laughing, kissing hugging, photographing and staring in disbelief elapsed before, upon a small swell Tanja and Michael wed. It really was the most marvelous moment in time, and I am still in awe of the level of planning (and deceit) necessary in bringing us all together.

Markus, who had arrived in Singapore expecting a quiet weekend of dining and relaxation, carried an expression on his face of shock and awe... someone, well, that expected a weekend of relaxation and instead got an international goodbye party, combined with wedding, punctuated with LIES, wonderful wonderful lies.

We spent a happy afternoon, on an island shared with some crabby French expats and crabbier Monkeys, sipping champagne, splishing and splashing in the sea and generally feeling rather lucky that we were here together on the beach... in Singapore.

Photos and word cannot do this justice. Amazing.

Eye of the tiger

Anke, as always, entertained by me

The screaming begins!

Mr. Handsome

Mr. & Mrs. Held!


Markus looks on, knowing he has some unexpected surprises when he gets married!

Anke is radiant!


We manage to surround the island and invade!


Markus and I run into the sunset together

We play some games with the 2 second timer on the camera


Have a nice day!

Band of Brothers

The sun sets

Time for bed ... and the surprises for Markus do not stop!

Some more links:

My web gallery:

Michael & Tanja's Blog
Their Flickr stream

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Mr. & Mrs. Held

I just returned from a weekend in Singapore visiting Michael & Tanja, and scaring the wits out of Markus. It was just about the most amazing weekend ever, and requires a separate post, though I really have no idea how I am going to write it - it was really quite unbelievable.

The only thing to say right now is; "Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs' Held!"

... and thanks for including me in one of the best weekends I can imagine!

Tanja & Michael on the boat getting married ... surrounded by Supertankers in Singapore harbour!

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Saturday, July 21, 2007



Finally, after what seemed like decades of waiting, Jade and I finally winged our way across the South China Sea to visit Michael and Tanja in the suburban oasis that is Singapore. Now, Jade and I have been apart rather more than we would have liked over the past few weeks (and months) so it was a relief to feel the tyres peeling themselves off the tarmac of the runway in Taoyuan, and skidding to a halt in the shadow of palm trees.

The plan was to land, check out the major sites of Singapore (luggage in tow) and then jump on a boat for the one hour boat trip to the Indonesian island of Bintan, ride a taxi over the island, and finally take a small boat out to Nikoi. This little island has more or less been entirely taken over by Singaporean weekend trippers so it was hardly the immersion into Indonesian culture we were hoping for, but it was hard to complain when the view was so very nice.

The little slice we did have - when we were taken to a local canteen by the taxi driver - comprised a delicious, hot, dry tasting soup ... and it certainly makes me think I will be back to taste the rest of the menu.

It was also great to be back in Singapore with Michael and Tanja now sporting a year of culinary knowledge. It was probably wise to leave when we did, as Jet Star Asia flight 3K521 may have had severe difficulties upon takeoff.

Roar! The lions at the Bank of China building

We are sailing


A characterful rock

Jump! One for Anke and Lars in Shanghai - does a rope count?

Coral on the beach

I just imagine the pirates and colonial ships mistaking this rock for their enemy

Jade enjoys a tipple on the boat back

More photos in my Web Gallery:

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Old Chang Kee

Here's one for Danny!

(my Chinese Yankee livin it up in the USA now)

Old Chang Kee

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Singapore - Michael & Tanja

I treated Erin and myself to a long weekend in Singapore to go and visit super-couple Michael and Tanja. Michael, for those of you joining the movie late, is one of my old colleagues / class mates / general great friend that I used to work with at Asus, and Tanja is just one of the best people in the world full stop - so I was really looking forward to seeing them again.

They have really managed to land on their feet. A large colonial house with high ceilings, wood floors and luxurious amounts of space to breathe. Something truly inspiring to aim for, and they deserve every 'ping' of it.

I had been to Singapore before (see here) but it was Erin's first time. I therefore played tour guide around the sights, sounds and smells of Singapore's various ethnic neighbourhoods. It was really fun to come back and know my way around - and it was a breath of fresh air to be free of scooters, all the 7-11s and the hustle and bustle that makes Taiwan, Taiwan.

Erin is a big fan of Singapore

After the sites of Singapore's more than ample tourist industry, it was really pleasant to change gear and join M&T on a nice night out drinking outside (remember what that is like in Taiwan?) on a rooftop looking out over the city, and planning our imminent trip to the BEACH.

Now, I was pretty open minded about which beach we should go to. The guys have been here a few months but they are still checking out the best places to go and what is new for them of course is new for me. However. They dropped the ball when they informed me that to get to the beach in Sentosa requires an underground train ride, linking up with a cable car ... and then gravity driven go cart to the beach! Tony Blair - please listen to the voice of the people - we need more gravity assisted go-carts in ALL major cities. Crime rates would drop, and the nation will be happier. It was immense fun (and I am genuinely looking forward to going back to Singapore for only this reason).

Tanja Franzen - driving for McLaren this year. Awesome.

Now Sentosa, by any European measurements should be an area to avoid at all costs. An artificial island built purely to sun the overworked Singaporeans and juxtaposed next to what seems to be a oil supertanker show room it is a pretty gaudy mix of Pirates of the Caribbean and Disney. But lying on that beach, the waves lapping (was there a wave machine, me asks?) and just out of view of the tankers if you squint a bit ... and it was something close to heaven. Delicious.


Tanja works it

Michael looks nervous

Erin looks cheeky ...

... and great

The trees were real, I think, but kept expecting Thunderbird special effects as Virgil pilots TB 2 away to a world trouble spot (of which there are plenty these days, it seems)

New shades from Japan

The suspension of disbelief is maintained right up until you ascend the tallest hill in Singapore (yes 150 metres! - all the rest have been used to reclaim land) - kind of beautiful in its own way ... but you click your heels together and you are home.

Unfortunately, Erin clicked her heels together a touch too hard and lost one of her shoes - this shot rather nicely captures the mood of the moment!

Gone for good - and I lend my shoes to Erin until we reach the first shoe store (with nice shoes)

In actual fact, the original excuse to visit Singapore happened on Saturday night - DJ Shadow playing a preview show of his new album at Zouk club; one of the most famous clubs in all of Asialand.

Some absolutely ridiculous ticket antics on their part almost ruined our night, though. I am sure in Taipei most problems are a result of benign dimness, and things work out well in the end. In Singpore, rules are more meticulously enforced. Which is dull - but then I think that is what the locals sacrifice in return for safety, comfort and wealth.

When we all arrived, it was clear that our friend the door man had invited all of his friends, and the club was so packed you could hardly move. People say this when describing rock concerts, but I really mean it. Entirely ridiculous - I would guess it was over capacity by 20% - and at times I was really ready to just quit and go home. In the end though, we did find a little spot where were not in fear of being crushed to death and that we could relax. But sorry Mr Shadow - I am downloading your album and not paying for it, in return for my broken ribs.

Someone finds it funny

So. A great weekend in Singapore. Amazing food (again). And more than fantastic to see some people that really defined my Taiwan experience - and great to see them doing so well. Here's to you!

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Singapore & Malaysia pics

I put the last of the photos online from Singapore and Malaysia - plus a few others from other things in April. Check them out!

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Singapore Sling (again)

Well, I made it back to Singapore! 2 weeks of buses, boats and dodgy car rides and I am back in the 21st century. Malaysia impressed me, even when the bus system seemed to have been set up by Ken Dodd.

And I finally found the night market in Khota Bahru (spelling different again) - a local lad showed me the way, took me to the back of the market and I had simply one of the most delicious chicken dishes of my life, eaten straight out of a banana leaf with my (right) hand.

So. One day in Singapore and then winging it back to Taipei!

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

A Taiwanese Accent!

Day three in Singapore was utterly laid back. I finally ploughed through the last 50 pages of Samuel Pepys and as such spent much of it in Cafes drinking in the atmosphere (and avoiding the rain). I did manage to get some more Indian food, shop for some essentials and then peruse the local fashion market, test driving my Chinese.

It was such a pleasure. You start the conversation in Chinese, they look at you slightly quizzically, then they reply, and as soon as you return in Chinese they have a big smile on their face - haggling is much easier when the seller is laughing and on your side! In fact, one lady guessed I learnt Chinese in Taiwan because of my accent - i was so flattered! How cool is that?!

Later, I bumped into Michael Designer and we went out for Taiwanese dumplings at Din Tai Fong - part of the same chain from Taipei. That was excellent, and amusing to be drinking Taipee in Singapore.

In one hour, I head for Malaysia, the jungle, and adventure!

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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Food Heaven

The food in Singapore is simply fantastic... (there is now a break of 12 hours in this post - the guy sitting next to me was an industrial designer from Bury St. Edmunds - we had several beers talked the designer talk, and it turns out he is on his way to Oz to evaluate interactive TV in Asia for the BBC. Fascinating! Just shows who you bump into, eh).

Anyway, yes the food is amazing here. There are places called 'Hawker' markets that are similar to night markets in Taiwan, but they are slightly better organised. There are dozens of stalls, you pick your food and drink from each of them and then sit in communal areas to dine. I have had, without exception, amazing food at every opportunity.

At lunch time, after booking my bus up to Malaysia, I wandered along to Little India and had a world-class curry in a really busy local eatery. The colours on display were amazing, the fruit stalls screaming for attention alongside the spice stalls and incense filling the air with exotic aromas. The Bryani was packed with wonderfully dry, mature spiciness that gradually heated up from your belly as you ate it. I jad to turn around to see how to eat the thing, and was met with laughter from some local ladies who signalled I should turn out the pot onto the dish - though only after did I realise that everyone was eating with their hands! The knife and fork were wheeled out for the unsuspecting visiting Brit.

Last night I was lucky enough to sit down next to two local women - it was immediately apparent that we had all ordered far too much food for ourselves, so we arranged to share. I was initially test driving my Chinese and of course they helped my battle through, but of course they spoke perfect English and thought it amazing and hilarious that I was learning. I was fortunate to get talking to them because they had ordered exactly the food I had been wanting to check outm, but that was rather too much for one person. The Barbecued Sting Ray was scintillating, the Black Pepper Crab (a crab cooked in a rich peppery sauce - messy but devine) was mouth watering, the La La clams fresh as sea daisies and this was backed up by the Dim Sum and some very special Chicken Satay. I went to bed very satisfied.

Right now (12:50pm) I am off to get some Arab flavours. Again, I was woken at dawn by the dawn prayer in the Mosque at the end of my street. And again I felt really lucky to be in Singapore. This place is really growing on me. A real meeting point of Malay, Indian, Chinese and European worlds, resulting in a well-fed belly!

A 24 hour Arabian restaurant ... downgraded to 21

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Singapore Slung

I am now moderately drunk sitting and writing. I have had a very enjoyable day doing nothing too much. I had the most fantastic sleep and woke up to a rather louder Singapore than the one I left the previous night - specifically the Mosque at the end of the street with its morning call, the Hindu tailors in the street outside my hostel and the Chinese market traders hawking everything from cell phones to dried mushrooms. A very different Singapore to the early AM of yesterday.

I had a very slow start to the day due to my Malaria tablets and their doping effect. This fitted in perfectly into my innactive holiday mode of sitting drinking coffees in the sun and watching the world go by. Singapore is strangely familiar, and yet unlike anything I have seen before. Laid back, organised and hygienic, and yet busy, cosmopolitan and humid to distraction. Places it reminds me of include Brighton, Victoria BC, Hamburg... a strange mix. But an attractive and very accessible one.

China town in Singapore - I had to wait for a minute until no foreigners were in view (!)

They have managed, unlike Taipei, to preserve at least some of the old colonial areas. I am realising I am perhaps hyper-sensitive to this because I complain about Taipei destroying its heritage, and yet here I am along a beautifully preserved street of colonial houses... and it is all rather Disney. Where is the perfect balance? Europe, I suppose - where I grew up! Hard to please, eh.

Bussorah Street - where I stayed and centre of the Arab district

Singapore is certainly reminiscent of Hong Kong, but is more... colonial. A cricket clun in the centre. More low level luxury hotels. More influence from Arab and Indian quarters. And at the same time I am noticing ridicuous details, perhaps because I am already tuned into 'Radio Asia' amd Singapore is quite western compared to Taipei. So, there are pidgeons here (do we have them in Taipei?), people ride Honda more, there are less scooters, people speak kind of a mix between Chinese and English, I think, and well.... it is very comfortable. Just some impressions.

Raffles Hotel - the quintessential British establishment in Singapore and home of the Singapore Sling, bless 'em

I spent the night along the waterfront of the south china sea drinking massively over priced beers. I had a great time, but realised that most Brits out here are public school boys and absolute bigoted arseholes. Man, I hate that friday night white collar trash thing in London and I hate it even more here where the pay is relatively higher and the targets of their scorn (the local girls on the whole) are not able to defend themselves.

Still, I like the place - but I feel more connection with Hong Kong. More edge. More.... Just more.

Cricket club in the very heart of Singapore. You can see their priorities when they landed! Government, then Library, followed by Cricket pitch, and then plenty of drinking establishments - the Brits certainly colonized in style!

BJ Massage - I had to take a photo!

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