26 June 2013

June - Orange #worldcolors #worldcolours

June brings us orange for #worldcolors #worldcolours - enjoy!

Yummy Thai food - Bangkok, Thailand

Sunset - desert near Dubai
Sand - desert near Dubai
Gardens by the Bay
Bibigloo (2011) - BIBI, France, i Light Marina Bay, Singapore 2012
Flamingos, Jurong Bird Park, Singapore
Buddhist monks -Vesak day, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Sunset from a plane somewhere over Europe
Red Panda, River Safari, Singapore zoo
Haloumi cheese
Scotch egg
Sunset - Phnom Penh, Cambodia (photo courtesy of my husband)

If you missed any of the previous months colours, check them out here

25 June 2013

Haze Hits!

Unless you've been hiding under a stone for the past week you can't fail to have heard about the haze (well in truth smog) that has blighted Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

I've lived in Singapore three years next month and the haze is an annual occurrence but this was on a whole different level to anything I'd seen before.  It became so big it's even got its own Wikipedia page!  Usually it will be hazy for a few days, maybe they'll be a faint smoky smell in the air and that's about it.  In fact because I've barely even noticed it in previous years I haven't even felt the need to write about it here.  This year they seem to have begun the burning earlier which has coincided with a drier period.  In Singapore there has been no rain for well over a week which did not help to damp down the haze which developed.

In case you are wondering the haze has been caused by illegal fires started on the Indonesian island of Sumatra to clear the land ready to plant crops.  Much of the farmland that is alight is owned by palm oil companies.  There is a big demand for palm oil and farmers use what is called 'slash and burn' techniques to clear the land as this is considered the quickest way to do so.

This year's haze began in a similar way to those I've experienced previously.  The tell tale slightly smoky smell and hazy look of the sky.  Last Tuesday evening I met a friend for dinner and we sat outside, whilst it was smoky and did seem worse than I recalled it being it still didn't bother me unduly.  

Early morning on Tuesday, a hazy sunrise

On Wednesday I went to work.  By the nature of my work I can often be in a bit of a bubble from the outside world as I'm usually in a room with no windows and it's only when I come out that I'll realise it's raining, for example.  A similar thing happened last Wednesday when I was shocked and surprised to see just how smoky and hazy it had become since I'd arrived earlier that morning.  I took the following photos from the same view point at work in the Orchard area of the city on Wednesday and Thursday morning.  I think you can see a difference between the two days, particularly if you look at the far tower blocks between the buildings in the foreground.


I don't work on Friday's and as the PSI (Pollutants Standard Index) used to measure pollution levels had been climbing on Wednesday and Thursday, breaking the previous highest record in Singapore as it went.  I decided I'd stay at home.  Previously the worst recorded pollution was in 1997 when the PSI reached 226.  On Wednesday evening the three hour reading reached 321 moving into the hazardous zone and at 1pm on Thursday the three hour reading reached 371.  Friday ultimately saw that record broken again with a reading of 401 recorded at 12pm!

Although I didn't get any photos from Friday and was indoors I still felt the effects of such a high reading.  Despite having all our doors and windows shut there are still gaps around doors and the haze crept into our condo on Friday with ease.  I didn't have a mask but if I had I would definitely have wanted to wear it, even indoors.  At the height of the haze, and as I've noticed in many photos, everything seemed to have a yellowish tinge to it and as had been the case for the preceding few days the air smelt acrid and thick with smoke.  I've never given any thought to what it must be like to live in an unhealthy, polluted place but having experienced this I don't think I'll ever take blue skies and fresh air for granted again.

Mercifully the wind direction changed on Saturday afternoon and even though I took this photo, again from work, on Saturday morning by the afternoon the skies were looking a lot clearer and healthier.

Saturday morning

Sadly though it is now affecting Malaysia just as badly and of course parts of Indonesia have also been hit.  The fires are still burning though so a change of wind direction could see the same problems returning to Singapore again.  If it does we can only hope that it won't be as bad as last week.

If you want to see more photos of how bad the haze was take a look at the posts on this blog or to get an idea of the affect of previous periods of haze take a look here.

24 June 2013

Flight of Fancy at Gardens by the Bay

Before the haze really hit last week I went to view the latest display at Gardens by the Bay, Flight of Fancy.  Flight of Fancy is the latest thematic floral display, following quick on the heels of Tulipmania.  This time though the display is in both the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest Dome.  

The theme of the display focuses on flight, both that of man through aircraft, hot air balloons, kites etc and the flight of seeds being dispersed on the wind.  Both domes have an array of interesting facts to read about all types of flight and are peppered with model balloons and planes.  The Flower Dome is also teeming with a variety of flowers in a multitude of colours, right where the tulips were previously.  The Cloud Forest Dome never fails to blow me away every time with the large refreshingly cool waterfall as you first enter it.  At the moment there are yet more hot air balloons and facts to be seen in here too.  Let your imagination run free on this flight of fancy.

It's the perfect indoor activity should the haze return!

Flight of Fancy is on now until 21 July 2013 at Gardens by the Bay.  The domes are open from 9am - 9pm.  Admission charges to the domes apply. 

21 June 2013

Royal Palace - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The last weekend of May brought with it a conveniently placed holiday for Vesak day which meant a long weekend.  Technically not really for me as I work Saturdays but my husband and I decided to each take a couple of days off work and go away somewhere.  Having not been away in the region for almost two years (our last trip being to Bali two summers ago) I was very excited to be going somewhere new.

As those who follow this blog will know my husband travels a lot for work.  One advantage of all this travelling though is that he collects a lot of air miles and it was with these that we decided to find some flights.  I was happy to go pretty much anywhere (even going back to Bali) but in the end we settled on a place neither of us had visited, Cambodia.  My husband has travelled extensively in Asia with work, far more than me and probably far more than I am ever likely too, but this was somewhere he hadn't been to either so it seemed the perfect choice.  Siem Reap seemed an obvious option but we found we couldn't get guaranteed flights using the miles and as we'd booked time off we wanted to be going somewhere and not run the risk of going nowhere.  We then stumbled across flights to Phnom Penh so opted for a visit to the capital city.  I have to admit I knew very little about what was there to do but having read a little more I was satisfied that this would be a great first place to visit in Cambodia.  

So on the Friday (Vesak day) we flew off to Phnom Penh.  Our first day was spent mainly wandering around the area near our hotel.  We were well placed near to the Royal Palace, Tonle Sap river and a wealth of eateries.  Our hotel was, although a little unfinished in places, very welcoming, clean and the service was fantastic.  In fact the service everywhere we went was brilliant.  I'd have no hesitation in staying there again if I were returning to Phnom Penh.

The Royal Palace was closed on the Friday so we decided to return on the Saturday.  If you are thinking of visiting please note it is only open from 7.30am - 11am and then again from 2pm - 5pm.  We went early in the morning but it was already incredibly hot, the sun very intense and there is not a lot of shelter so make sure you take sun cream.  Throughout our whole stay in Phnom Penh it was several degrees hotter than Singapore generally is and the difference was very noticeable at times!  

The Royal Palace is the residence of the Cambodian King, they have occupied it since the 1860's other than during and after the reign of the Khmer Rouge.  You enter the palace from the Sothearos Boulevard, easily the grandest road I saw in Phnom Penh and also the quietest.  Once inside all outside noises seem to disappear and you are immersed in a tranquil calm, even more so it seemed as we visited early in the morning.   

The palace was constructed when the capital of Cambodia was relocated from Oudong to Phnom Penh under King Norodom (there is a statue to him in the palace grounds) and the French protectorate in the mid-19th century.  It serves as a residence for the King (though the part he lives in is closed to the public), a venue for court ceremonies and as a symbol of the Kingdom.  Although the palace was sited in its present location in the 1860's it didn't attain its present form until around 1920.  Over time buildings have been added, expanded and demolished.

Attached to the palace compound is the Wat Preah Keo Morokat or the Silver Pagoda.  It has this name because of its silver tiled floor (there are 5329 tiles each weighing 1.125kg) and is where the King meets with monks, no monks live there however.  Ceremonies are performed there and it also has a collection of Buddhist and historical objects, including the 17th century 'Emerald Buddha'. 

As I wandered around I commented to my husband how it reminded me a lot of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.  I didn't think that surprising given the countries are neighbours and both have a large Buddhist population.  Having read a little more about the palace since I understand that it was constructed using both traditional Khmer architecture and Thai architecture, so maybe that's why I can see a resemblance.  It also features a number of European features and designs as well.  This includes the Napoleon iron pavilion, originally built for Empress Eugenie of France, Napoleon's wife in 1869 for use in the inauguration of the Suez canal.  It was a gift from France in 1876.

After you leave the palace compound and Silver pagoda you enter an area with a museum and more general information about Cambodia and its history and, of course, refreshment areas, toilets and a gift shop.  If you wish to you can see silk weaving exhibitions, a traditional Cambodian house and much more including an interesting (though quite long) video about Cambodia's history.

We opted not to have a guided tour and explore the place ourselves when we visited.  There is not much in the way of signage or information around so if you really want to learn a lot about the place and what you are seeing a guide may be a good choice.  Nonetheless though it was a great morning and the Royal Palace is definitely a must see on any trip to Phnom Penh.

07 June 2013

Red Dot Roaming - Bugis MRT - Kampong Glam

I seem to have been busy lately and so my last Red Dot Roaming adventure has been a little slow in being published.  My last visit earlier in May though took me to Bugis MRT.  Before I go Red Dot Roaming I usually research the area as much as I can, mainly to see if there is anything there that looks interesting.  I have naturally skipped stations (I'm doing my exploring alphabetically) and fully expect to do this again in the future if there is nothing there of interest to me or I've already visited the vicinity and shared my experiences here separately.  I actually thought Bugis would be one I skipped over as I guess when you think of Bugis you think of the Kampong Glam area and of course, I've been there countless times.  I've also recently visited the fairly newly opened Malay Heritage centre and so I wasn't really sure there was much else there. 

Well I was wrong!  I did know of one place I had not been to, a small toy museum, which although I had tried before I had not succeeded in finding.  I have to admit that now I have been I feel a bit foolish that I missed it the last time I looked for it.  Anyway more on that later because my Bugis MRT Red Dot Roaming actually ended up taking me to three locations all very easily accessible from the MRT and all new to me.

My first stop was at an old Malay cemetery, which although I wasn't aware of does seem to be common knowledge to a lot of other people in Singapore.  Anyway, anybody who knows me will know my love for a good spooky story and consequently my fascination with graveyards.  I'm a big history fan and graveyards can also tell you a lot about the history of a place.  My pre-trip research always includes looking at a map of the area to see if anything grabs me there that might not come up in other searches and it was whilst I was doing this that I noticed the cemetery.  I did a little more research, found some information about it and decided that it would be first on my list to go to.

The cemetery is believed to be the oldest Malay cemetery in Singapore, dating from 1819.  Although lots of people seem to know about it I'm pretty sure I've never noticed it before when I've been in the area.  It's on the corner of Victoria Street and Jalan Kubor.  Despite knowing this before I went (so I knew where to go) I was still surprised that it was so obviously on the main road (given I had no idea it was there) and so easy to access.  I guess I'm just surprised it has been left alone given where it is and not rebuilt upon.  Though I'm pleased to see it has survived.  Does anybody know anything of the history of the place and why it has been lucky enough to be preserved?  I understand that it's believed that a number of Malayan Princes are buried there, could this be why?

Although there was no barrier to stop me entering the graveyard in the end I just viewed it from the path.  There was something about the numerous graves dotted all over the piece of land with no clear paths to walk on that made me feel I would be being disrespectful to traipse over them all.  I noticed as I crossed over Jalan Kubor (which I understand means Grave Road in Malay) that there was also what looked like an old shrine partially hidden by trees on the piece of land.  I presume this must have been linked to the graveyard too. 

After my visit to the cemetery I walked back to Bussorah Street for my next stop, a visit to the Children Little Museum, a place that had managed to allude me when I'd gone to look for it before.  This time I made a thorough note of where it was and found it without any difficulty.  I've previously visited the Mint Museum of Toys near Raffles hotel and it was after my visit there that someone on Twitter told me about this other toy museum. 

As you enter the museum there is a model robot on the doorstep to welcome you in to a shop full of goodies to browse.  The toy museum is in the upstairs of the shophouse and entry costs $2.  It is only the one large room and it naturally focuses on a typically Singaporean childhood.  Despite that though and whilst brands may not have been automatically familiar to me many of the toys themselves were.  The owners have gone to great trouble with their museum including a reconstruction of a classroom and toy shop windows.  A really sweet place well worth popping by.

Children Little Museum

Last on my list of places to go was the Singapore Chinese Opera museum.  I think when I first moved here this was somewhere I stumbled upon when researching things to do in Singapore and it got added to the list of places to go.  Subsequently it got forgotten until a previous visit to Kampong Glam and  a chance spotting of a sign advertising the museum.  I then forgot about it again until I was doing my research for my visit to this area.  I recalled seeing the sign for the museum but, of course, I couldn't remember the name of the place.  After a lot of hunting I finally stumbled across a website about the museum and decided this would be my final stop.

From Bussorah Street I walked to Jalan Sultan and the Sultan Plaza mall.  The museum is on the first floor literally just as you walk in.  To be fair it's more of a cafe with a lot of information about the history of Chinese opera in Singapore on the walls at one end of it.  There is also a stage area where I presume they sometimes put on live performances.  When I went though there was just a TV in the corner showing some of the opera.  Again it did not take me long to look at the exhibits and the owners let me look at the displays seemingly without any expectation that I'd also buy something from the cafe.  However given that I'd just spent time there doing that I felt it only right that I end my visit to Kampong Glam with a refreshment stop at their cafe before heading home.

Inside the Singapore Chinese Opera Museum

If you've missed any of my previous Red Dot Roaming adventures around Singapore check them out here.  If you think there is somewhere I should be visiting near an MRT station please comment and let me know.

Bugis MRT station is on the East West Line EW12 and Downtown Line DT14.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...