26 June 2012

It Only Took Nearly Two Years ....

..... but I've finally managed to get myself a job here!  The good news too is that I'm enjoying it (thank goodness) and only now realize how much I actually missed working, even if it does mean I don't have quite as much free time to devote to exploring Singapore.  I can't, of course, say it was all bad being here and not working either.  It meant I could do what I needed to whenever it suited me rather than fitting it in around work.  That I could meet friends whenever I wanted and explore this island as much as I liked.  Having a job though has given me another dimension to my life here, gives me financial independence again (hooray) and something else to talk about with my husband and those close to me.

There were times when I wondered if I'd ever manage to get a job here and worried that I was ultimately going to end up pretty much unemployable.  I envied friends back home who had careers that were going from strength to strength as much as they probably envied my work free life.  It certainly has not been easy to find work here as a 'trailing spouse' and I would never kid anybody moving here in my position that it was going to be a breeze.  For all the people I know who have succeeded in finding a job there are many who are in exactly the same position as I was, applying for countless jobs and hearing nothing at all, being rejected or hitting some form of red tape in the process.  In the end my new job came about completely out of the blue and all happened very quickly once I had submitted my CV.  This time I got the lucky break everyone needs sometimes and my new employers were prepared to give me the chance.

This is where you can find me on work days now

I have actually taken a total departure from what I had previously been doing in the UK, though my degree did touch upon the subject I'm now involved in and I had some very long ago brief experience of it.  I can remember how confident I was when I first arrived that I'd secure a job in my previous field.  This being despite a few warnings from others (and my own research on the matter) that it wasn't always easy for the person arriving without the job to get one.  With no previous Asia experience in my former field or a degree specifically for that career (despite nine years actual work experience) it soon became apparent it didn't seem likely to happen and I was not going to get a job as easily as I'd assumed I would.  During the course of my job search here, and as time went by, I more-or-less decided that I'd be happy to do something else if I could and if it meant securing a job.

I haven't been job hunting continuously, I took a break from it when organizing our wedding in the UK, as with a couple of longer trips back planned it was easier not to be working.  Even with that break though I have spent the biggest part of my time here hunting and once I returned after our honeymoon I knew I needed to up that search again.  It was no easy task to get back into that job hunting frame of mind after that break though and was a worrying time too as I was fast approaching two years of unemployment with no valid reason (apart from a move to another country) for it.

My new job is part time (though I work varying hours every week and at various times of the day), which suits me.  Going back to work full time after that two year gap seemed a little daunting.  Though actually as soon as I got back into working again it felt like I'd never not been so I'm sure a full time role would have been fine.  However this does also mean I still do have time for all the mundane stuff that needs doing and for enjoying Singapore, meeting up with friends and so on.  My job is also one with a company with centres all over the world, and the work I'm doing means that (hopefully) if/when we move elsewhere as expats (and if I can't get anything else) hopefully I can do the same thing as I'm doing now in the new country.

I can't tell you how pleased and relieved I am to finally be working again!  Though I hope you'll forgive me if I fall even further behind on blogging and posting as a result.

22 June 2012


I love trying new food and recently became aware of rambutans.  A tropical fruit which seems to be currently available everywhere in Singapore.  I heard of them through friends and my husband who were either already confirmed fans or had tried them and loved them.  So I knew I had to get some to try too.

Rambutans are closely related to lychees and once you get the outside skin off look very similar.  Though there is a large pip in the rambutan, unlike in a lychee.  I was a bit nervous on my first try, but in comparison to my durian experience, lets just say rambutans are a thousand times nicer in my opinion!  They were sweet, similar in texture to lychees, and what, to me, fruit should taste like.  I'd happily eat rambutans at any opportunity whereas I think durian was a once in a lifetime moment.

Slightly under ripe bag of rambutans from a stall near our condo

The only downside I can find is that bits of the pip inside seem to get stuck to the fruit and you end up eating bits of the pip too.  To me this is what I imagine it would be like to eat slithers of wood.  I did wonder at first if it was my poor peeling skills or because I was eating slightly under ripe rambutans but I gather from others this does happen.  Needless to say I seem to spend a lot of time picking these little bits of pip off the fruit.  Despite that though it's a small inconvenience to pay for enjoying these delicious fruit.

15 June 2012

Dragon Boating in the Bay

A few weekends ago we went along to a Dragon Boat racing regatta taking place at Marina Bay.  My husband used to row and compete when he was younger (just regular rowing not in dragon boats) and with his interest in the sport he was keen to go and see some dragon boat racing when we heard it was on.  I'd seen odd practice sessions along the Kallang river but nothing more, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to experience it.  Dragon boat racing is believed to have originated in southern central China more than 2500 years ago and there are a lot of rituals and ceremonies attached to it.  You can read a little more about the history here.

This regatta saw a variety of teams taking part, including the British, Gaelic, American and Australian teams (as well as many more), several local university teams, corporate teams and some teams from neighbouring countries.  The regatta took place over the whole weekend (we popped along both days) with numerous heats over longer and shorter distances, with the teams competing to qualify for the final races.

As spectators we were able to wander right in amongst the teams warming up and preparing for their races as well as, of course, walk around the Bay getting various views of all the action.  In addition to the racing, on the Promontory there were several food stalls, a beer tent (complete with live bands) and lots of fun activities for families, including face painting and all the usual things you'd expect to see at a family friendly event. 

It was only by chance that we even realized this event was on but it was a fun and different way to fill our weekend.  If you are interested yourself I recommend you keep an eye out for future dragon boat racing events in Singapore.

09 June 2012

Beerfest Asia 2012

Unbelievably (as it seems to have come around again so quickly) it's Beerfest Asia 2012 this weekend!  Was the last one really a year ago?  I was lucky enough to get tickets again this year, and we went along on the Friday evening.

This year the VIP tickets included a complimentary t-shirt (like last year) but also a very handy beer glass for your refills, as well as a beer cooler complete with handy strap for ease of carrying around your neck (see my photo below).  Though there was part of us that was a little disappointed that this meant we couldn't get the obligatory photos of all the empty beer bottles (like last year) and, of course, get to read a little about the beer whilst sampling it.  Though the festival programme does give you some of that information of course!

Like last year the festival is on at the Marina Promenade on the F1 tracks and this year features three hundred and fifty different beers as well as numerous live music and comedy acts.  Anyone who knows me well will know I'm not a huge beer drinker and last year managed to find a delicious (it didn't really taste like beer) lychee beer to enjoy.  That beer was back at the festival again this year but this time I settled for a strawberry flavoured beer and a grapefruit flavoured beer.  In my opinion both were great as the beer flavour was minimal.  I'm sure there are many true beer fans reading this in horror but never fear there are plenty of beers (and ciders) for you to enjoy too.

I'll be honest in that I'm not sure it was quite as good as last year's festival, but I wonder if that is more because there was a big crowd of us last year so therefore more opportunity to try a bigger variety of beers.  Also getting food from the food tent this year seemed a lot more chaotic than last (a multitude of orders taken all together and then a bit of a scrum to actually get your order once it was ready and called out) but perhaps we just picked a bad time to eat and my memory over the course of a year has faded.

However don't just take my word for it, there is still a day of the festival left and tickets can still be bought here, so go see for yourself!

This blog resulted from an invitation and represents the thoughts and opinions of the writer.  All information on this blog is provided "as is", with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness and the writer will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information.  All text and photos on this blog are the original works of the writer unless stated otherwise.

Thank you to notatourist.sg and SingTel for the kind invitation.

08 June 2012

Business Trip to Sri Lanka

Continuing in the series of posts about the business travels that my husband undertakes, he shares his trip to Sri Lanka and the good time he had there.

As a consultant covering South East Asia I often get to travel to some interesting and unusual places, including Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia in the last few months. However recently a regional client asked us to help them in another market, just outside our usual sphere of influence, therefore at the end of March I travelled to Colombo.  This trip had previously been postponed twice, in fact the second time I was supposed to be travelling Laura was also going to join me, with us extending the trip by a couple of days.  Unfortunately she couldn't accompany me when the trip did actually happen as she was in the UK.

As I mentioned I travel a fair bit for work, but travelling to Sri Lanka somehow seemed to be a little more exotic, exciting and edgy than usual.  I am not sure why, perhaps it is the country’s recent history or the fact that it is not on everyone’s must travel to list, it should be, but more of that later.  So the time for the trip arrived with an overnight flight from Singapore to Colombo (on the Emirates flight that I usually try very hard to avoid on trips back to Blighty) and started really well with a champagne in the Emirates lounge and an upgrade to the posh seats (courtesy of my frequent flyer status), therefore the flight was comfy and sleepy. 

A luxurious start to the journey

Upon arrival (at about 1:30am local time, two and a half hours behind Singapore) immigration was painless, one needs to arrange your entry visa prior to travel, this can be done and paid for ($20 US) online, money was changed (Forex shops at Changi do not carry Sri Lanka Rupees) and a transfer to the hotel was procured from the hotel desk in the arrivals hall.  The journey to the hotel was interesting as shapes of dilapidated crumbling buildings, stray straggly dogs and the odd late night local loomed out of the darkness and took about forty-five minutes.  I stayed in the Hilton Colombo (on the advice of my client) which was located within the Fort area of the city, the city is really small, so staying anywhere is really convenient.  The hotel, itself, is a standard business hotel with all the usual facilities.  After a sleep, it was time for breakfast, which included fruits, cold cuts, western style items (bacon, eggs, hash browns etc), as well as Indian and Sri Lankan options.  Then it was off to a series of meetings with some local retail banks.

A Sri Lankan Breakfast

After my last meeting I returned to the hotel and decided to have a well-earned beer in the hotel bar.  This was themed as a British style pub and was called Echelon.  I was able to catch the last fifteen minutes of play from the 1st Test Match (England were playing the Sri Lankans in Galle, in the south of the island) over a Lion beer.  Along with the beer they served a bowl of something similar to Bombay Mix, a spicy mix of odds and sods, which was excellent and a great accompaniment to the great cold lager.  It was bloody hot outside, although not as humid as Singapore. 

Prior to my trip I had bought the Lonely Planet guide for Sri Lanka and read up on the eating options and with luck one of the recommended places was right here in the hotel.  A Sri Lankan restaurant called Curry Leaf, which essentially serves seafood cooked in the local spicy style using the buffet approach.  The main feature of the restaurant was an amazing fish counter where the customer selects what he wants to eat.  All I can say is that the choice was overwhelming but fortunately the chap before me asked for a selection cooked Ceylon-style and I opted for the same. 

The Best Fish Counter in the World (seen something similar in Tesco's, but I had to cook that)

Whilst the fish was cooking there was a meat and veggie buffet with all sorts of curries, rice and cooling salad. 

Additionally there was a station serving a local speciality, Kotthu Roti, which is a chopped up roti with meat and many vegetables.  I was keen to try this as I had seen this on travel programmes, where it was portrayed as Sri Lankan drinking food (similar to the late night kebabs that us Brits consume at 2am after a night on the ale) and I can report that the Hilton’s version was delicious.

Then the fish started to arrive at the table, dish after dish.  There were prawns, squid and grilled fish, all cooked in wonderful spicy curried rubs and sauces. 

Battered Prawns and Curried Squid

The final course of the meal was Sri Lankan chili crab, this was a thousand times better than the Singaporean equivalent (in my opinion), in that the spice is cooked onto the crab, as opposed to being poured on as a sauce, therefore it is less messy to eat (always a plus for me).

Chili Crab

The second day and final morning of my trip was devoted to business meetings.  However upon leaving the last meeting there was a great deal of commotion and noise (including drums, trumpets and firecrackers) on the street outside the office building with many teenage boys shouting and cheering in a possession.  One of the participants was rather larger than his fellow revellers - a fully grown elephant in ceremonial dress, was also walking down the road.

Wondering what was going on I asked my driver (hired from the hotel for about 35 SG dollars for the half day) and was informed that there was a schools cricket final that afternoon. 

Having finished my meeting and my flight back to Singapore not being until the following afternoon I had some time to explore the city a little, so I decided to have a walk along the beach.  Initially this was a little stressful, given the constant hassle from tuk-tuk drivers looking for customers (offering to show you the sights etc. all offers that I declined).  I walked along an area called the Galle Face, which is essentially a park for walking, meeting friends, flying a kite, playing cricket or going for a dip in the clear blue water of the Indian Ocean.  Along the promenade there were also a number of stalls selling snacks and drinks, most of which smelled wonderful.

Whilst on my walk I ended up having a beer in The Veranda Bar, at the Galle Face Hotel, a sort of Colombo equivalent of Raffles Hotel, i.e. a colonial relic of yesteryear, which I have to say, was truly wonderful. 

The Galle Face Hotel

The atmosphere was relaxed and not at all stuffy (as you may have expected) with the bar overlooking lush tropical gardens (including a boy that was climbing palm trees) and the aforementioned ocean in the background.  I had two large bottles of the local beer (I always try to sample the local drop on my travels, Sri Lanka’s is called Lion), that cost an eye-poppingly cheap nine SG dollars.

The Veranda Bar @ The Galle Face Hotel

In the evening I visited the Cricket Club Cafe, a bar dedicated to the sport I love, with memorabilia from various international cricket teams on the walls.  All the menu items are named after cricketers, I had a Ganguly Grill (a chicken parma with chips), named after the Prince of Calcutta, Sourav Ganguly, the former Indian captain.  As good as the cafe was, the journey to and from the meal was the most interesting or should I say, exciting (read scary, nail-biting, flume choked ten minutes of fun) ride I have had in my life, as I foolishly decided to utilise the services of a tuk-tuk driver.

If you want to read more of my husband's business travel experiences, go here for his review of Jakarta.

06 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee

This past weekend has been one of those where I would have loved to be back in the UK.  Just in case you've missed it the Queen has been celebrating her Diamond Jubilee and the UK has been partying hard with a four day holiday, street parties, pageants, a concert and much pomp.  Thankfully all the main events have been shown on one of the BBC channels I can access here so I haven't completely missed out.  Though it has meant some late nights with the time difference.

Unlike when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge got married last year there didn't seem to be much celebration in Singapore.  Though I did spot the Singapore flag on one of the boats taking part in the flotilla on the Thames and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are visiting Singapore later this year as part of the celebrations.

In recognition of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee here are a few videos from the weekend.  Enjoy and congratulations Your Majesty!

The River Pageant

Diamond Jubilee Concert Closing Fireworks

Jubilee Tuesday

05 June 2012

Cooking Demo at ToTT

I'd been to Tools of the Trade (ToTT) before when I attended a Makansutra cookery course and I was recently invited to go back there to attend a local chef's (Jimmy Chok) cookery demonstration and workshop.  Jimmy Chok has worked in a variety of Singapore's top restaurant kitchens, including Raffles hotel as well as owning his own restaurant here.  Our location for the morning must be heaven to anyone with an interest in cooking, with a huge shop selling a variety of kitchen gadgets as well as the opportunity to regularly watch a variety of cooking demonstrations or get involved and hands on if you prefer.

I'm not, by my own admission, the world's greatest cook or someone who finds inspiration in the most basic of ingredients to produce something amazing.  However I do enjoy watching cookery programmes, in the hope that I'll suddenly find that inspiration and become a genius in the kitchen.  I also enjoy eating the end results of someone else's culinary genius (who doesn't).  So I was interested to see a chef in action.

The cookery demonstration I attended was organised by the magazine Simply Her so the majority of those in attendance were ladies, but there were a few men there too.  The theme for the demonstration being Asian fusion cooking, chef Jimmy Chok prepared Sambal Terasi with Slow Cooked Salmon, Chicken Roll with Saute Mushroom in Chinese Wine Pepper Sauce and Phyllo Pastry Banana Chocolate Roll.  He made it all look very effortless as he talked through the cooking methods and answered the questions being asked of him by the audience.  The most interesting part for me though was watching him completely debone a whole chicken, though I can't see me personally ever attempting that one! 

I didn't actually manage to sample any of the dishes that were prepared in the end (too many people all trying to get a little taster) but they looked good.  It was an enjoyable morning but I have to admit after watching someone cooking for a couple of hours by the time we left I was very ready for some lunch.

ToTT offer regular cookery demonstration workshops as well as hands on workshops too.  If you enjoy cooking or perhaps enjoy watching others cook (like me) it's worth checking their website for details of the events on offer.

This blog resulted from an invitation and represents the thoughts and opinions of the writer. All information on this blog is provided "as is", with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness and the writer will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information. All text and photos on this blog are the original works of the writer unless stated otherwise.

Thanks to notatourist.sg for the kind invitation.

01 June 2012

Be Part of the Next notatourist.sg Makansutra Food Safari Tour

Back in November I had the chance to go on one of the Makansutra Food Safari's thanks to notatourist.sg.  You too can now stand a chance of joining KF Seetoh on one of his popular food tours around Singapore.

How can you do it?  It's very simple really,

1. Visit the notatourist.sg Facebook Page at:
2. "Like" the notatourist.sg Facebook Page

3. Invite three of your friends!

4. If all three friends accept the invite, you and your three friends will stand a chance to be part of this event.

The Event Details as follows:

• 13 JUNE 2012, Wednesday

• Registration from 630pm - 7pm.

• Bus will leave from SingTel Comcenter lobby at 7pm sharp.

Good luck!!

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