Saturday, 15 January 2011
Happiness is cheap in Singapore
Fun fun fun in the sun sun sun = time flying like there's no tomorrow. After two years on this tiny isle, has the UK become a distant memory of a life less ordinary? Has Singapore reached the coveted spot as the place I call 'home'?
If it's possible, this second year has zipped by even more rapidly than the first in a whizz of weddings and weekends away. We managed to escape to Asia no less than six times (albeit half the number of holidays we had in the first year) and back to the UK twice.
So, how has life changed in this second year? Here's a quick round-up:
- Cementing friendships. Much like university days, by the time you get into your second year, you pretty much know who your core group of buddies is and you spend the rest of the year building on those solid foundations. You sort the wheat from the chaff, know who you want to spend holidays with (and those who you definitely don't), know whose calls to return and whose to reject. It may sound tough but there literally aren't enough hours in one's life to waste on people who you just don't like that much. There are seldom enough for those who you'd like to see more of in any event. The key difference between expat life and university life is that you win and lose people along the way. As if someone just dropped out of university, people disappear from Singapore life to pastures new. For many, their photos on Facebook change from tropical beaches to wintery scenes. No more booze cruises, only nights out down the pub. It's always sad to see them go, but the transient nature of Singapore and its non-stop party scene means that you can refill the hole in your friend circle with ease at any time.
- Moving house. As most lettings are two years here, the time on our first home came swiftly to an end. After deliberating over the dire straits of the UK economy and the grim weather back home, we decided that we had not had enough of Asia yet so signed on for another two years in a new flat. Cue spending a month's salary on kitting out an unfurnished place because we wanted the place to feel more like we own it. Ouch.
- Settling in. After extensive research via word-of-mouth recommendations and the interweb, we know where to buy wedding rings (DeRocks: 10 Anson Rd #19-11 Singapore 079903. Contact: 62226818), get jewellery fixed, buy Thai groceries, find an organic farm, plan a fancy dress costume and invest in contemporary Asian art. We have truly mastered the art of avoiding Orchard Road and enjoy sourcing things from esoteric shops in the forgotten malls of Singapore. SHOP. EAT. PARTY. Rinse and repeat.
Stay tuned for more banal observations on life, Asian adventures, and top tips for your successful survival in the badlands of Sin City.
Wednesday, 5 January 2011
For New Year this year, we decided to go it alone and enter the territory of Eat, Pray, Love. Ubud welcomed us with a deluge - we even had to roll up our trousers just to reach our room. Why oh why did we opt to stay amongst the rice paddies?
8 pm until ALL PASS OUT
As is often customary in centres of tourist exploitation, we were charged a hefty US$75 each for the New Year Dinner & Dance. Not a drop of alcohol was served. The food came at a rate of knots and given the fact that we're just not that in to Balinese 'dance' music, we had retired to our four poster bed to watch films by 10.30 pm. Nice.
Ubud is full to bursting with handicraft shops. Should you be searching for a mosaic plate, wood carving, wind chime or garden furniture, you need look no further. And if your aural senses are heightened by the smooth groove of Ethnic Lounge, then you should seriously consider moving there.
A trip out to Tegallalang (organise it through your hotel) is a must for the quintessential photos of the tiered rice terraces and as long as you are up to date with your rabies injections, you should not fear a stroll through the Monkey Forest.
Just avoid the idiotic people who insist on 'hand-feeding' the monkeys (unless you consider having a monkey jump on your back and bite your face and shoulder in a frenzied attack on the hand-held banana a fun experience).
Cafe Lotus and Indus were other treats along the way before splashing out on a supreme tasting menu at Mozaic. It was a delectable journey, each dish captured by the three diners on the table next to us on their mobile phones. There's nothing like a bunch of food bloggers taking photos from all angles of their own and their companions' dishes to distract from the peaceful enjoyment usually associated with fine dining.
Our driver told us that the last five years had seen a marked increase in traffic in Ubud. Given the sheer number of EPL's (a.k.a. single, white females re-discovering 'life') clinging to local motorcyclists and the more daring ones going it alone, I can only predict that Ubud's roads will become more and more gridlocked. I dare say the number of 'mixed race' babies being born in Bali will no doubt see a spike too.
Ubud is certainly a peaceful alternative to the busy beaches of Seminyak. Of the few large hotels, many are hidden from view down sheltered approaches so a lot of the area still has a village feel. A village selling all manner of homewares imaginable, nonetheless. Shop, Sleep, Sloth.