Walking in the tree tops

I have become so used to most things here in Singapore that on a day to day basis the things I do and see seem normal now. Every once in awhile we do something that reminds me that we are in a tropical country close to the equator that is so very different from where we used to live.

Last weekend is one of these times.  We did our first family adventure in the car and went to MacRitchie National Park to do the tree top walk. I had heard about this from different people and we had been wanting to do it.

You start in a car park and within mins you are surround by interesting trees, vegetation and critters.

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IMG_4921We saw our first monkeys in the wild in Singapore.

IMG_4936 IMG_4934IMG_4940We also saw a bunch of interesting signs.

IMG_4937After about 2 1/2 km you make it to the ranger station and the the path up to the actual tree top walk.

IMG_4941 IMG_4942The girls still had some steam so we started the incline up to the bridge.  I have to admit about half way up the incline with two little ones you begin to question why you are doing this but I am so glad we did because what lies at the top of the incline was so worth it.

There is a long canopy bridge that spans across the tree tops.  You get such an interesting view of the forest and the birds and monkeys from that distance above everything.  It is a bit unreal and a wee bit scary being that high up.

IMG_4946 IMG_4944 IMG_4948 IMG_4957 IMG_4947 IMG_4951It was so neat to have walked among the tree tops in a rain forest.  Doing things like this is one of the reasons we came to Singapore to experience what we never had.

 

 

 

First Adventure

The day after we got the car Sadie had teacher work day .  I asked her what she wanted to do and she said go to the beach.  I packed up the CAR and off we went to Sentosa beach!

IMG_4905We played in the water and the sand.

IMG_4908Leave it to Sadie to want to built a volcano with lava flow instead of a castle.

IMG_4909We ate fish and chips on the beach and drank fresh squeezed juice.

IMG_4913I even succeed in backing into my first Singaporean parking place (see previous post)!

IMG_4917All in all a very good first adventure out in the car.

 

Car shopping

After seven months of buses, taxis and trains (MRT) we broke down and bought a car.

IMG_4904As I have discussed in the past, cars are very expensive in Singapore.  Part of the reason is that you have to buy a COE, a special license for the car.

The COE is only good for 10 years.  After 10 years you turn the car back into a car dealer who then gives you back a portion of the COE (the government decides how much for each type, make and model of car and reimburses the dealer) and a little bit of money for the car body.  The dealer then sales that car onto another country, usually Malaysia, or sells the car for parts.  Therefore the only cars you will see on the road older than 10 years old are taxis which have different rules.

We did our research and priced out renting a car ($1400-$2000 sing dollars a month for the car which includes insurance and maintenance) and buying a car that only had a 1 1/2 – 2 years left on it’s COE.  Every year closer to the end of the COE the less you pay.  So you don’t have to pay for all 10 years just what’s left on the COE and what you would pay for a used car.  It’s a bit confusing but we did the maths and even with maintenance, road tax (which you pay every year on top of the COE) and insurance if we got a 2005 car and drove it for the next 1 1/2  years or so until the COE ran out it would be cheaper than renting.  Once the COE runs out next year we can get different used car for how long we decide to stay here in Singapore.

That all sounded good until we started looking.  There a couple of places around the island that are basically used car malls.  There a bunch of dealers with all their cars lined up next to each other.  You go look and figure out what you want and who has it.  We knew we wanted a 2005 car that had a COE until at least next Summer.  I didn’t want anything too large because the parking garages and lots here aren’t made for big cars and I was a bit nervous driving here anyway (more on that later).  Something that gave the girls plenty of room and that we could bump a lot of stuff in the back.  Gas is pretty expensive so I wanted something that wouldn’t cost a fortune to drive.  I wasn’t asking for much, was I?

We looked and looked so much my brain started to hurt.  I think we may have over thought and looked it but in the end we got a 2005 Honda Airwave.  It’s a small Honda station wagon that looks big and feels big inside but is really very easy to drive and park because it is small.  It’s perfect for us.

No one was happier than the girls.  No more two buses home from school for Ellie.

IMG_0046It has a very groovy whole roof sunroof that they love looking out.

IMG_4906 IMG_0048Having a car has opened the whole island up to us. I was a bit nervous at first.  Think driving in Northern New Jersey during rush hour, on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the car while being cut off by Maseratis, Benetly’s and Farraris.  That’s what it feels like driving here.  I think after a week with the car I’m beginning to get the hang of it but I don’t think I’ll ever master the Singaporean back into parking places trick (you can always tell the Expats in a parking lot they are the only ones that pull into parking places Singaporeans ALWAYS back into places).

There will be times that we still take taxis and buses and the MRT but mostly we will to be driving everywhere.  Ken says having a car makes him feel like he actually lives in Singapore and with what we will be able to explore now I can see why he says it.

 

 

Coffee at a Hardware store

A few months back a Flight Attendant friend of mine Lisa sent me a message that a long time friend of hers – Kristy-  was moving to Singapore with her family.  Through the magic of Facebook she was able to introduce us.

It has been a few months and with busy school and holiday schedules we finally were able to meet up last week for a coffee and a chat.

Kristy suggested a place I had never heard of and I am so glad she did.

Chey Seng Huat Hardware is located off of Lavender Street in Singapore.  This whole area has old school style places to buy hardware and D-I-Y products.  At first you think CSHH is a closed hardware store.  There are grates across the front of the building and it doesn’t appear to be occupied at all.  If you didn’t know better you would walk right past it without giving it a second glance.

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IMG_4891Those in the know sneak through the big iron gates at the side of the building. (I have to admit I felt extra hip and cool sneaking into this hidden gem.)

IMG_4895 I couldn’t believe what was behind those gates.

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There was an outside area with tables to hang out in the courtyard and a DJ turn table for tunes if you are there in the evening.  A great choice of coffees from the traditional brewed to fancy and yummy “tummy fillers” and desserts.

I enjoyed myself so much I forgot to take pictures of my latte and smoked salmon salad.  The prices weren’t bad and the salad and coffee were very good.  Most of all the company was excellent.

Thanks for the meet up and introduction to the groovy new place Kristy!

 

Botanic Gardens

Ellie, Ken and I had all been to the Botanic Gardens but Sadie, who is probably the most interested in plants, never had.

Sunday after celebrating National Margarita Day at El Patio in Holland Village

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we went for a walk at the Botanical Gardens.

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Singapore is currently experiencing it’s longest dry spell in history.  It has only rained three times since the beginning of January and everything is drying up and dying. The haze has been bad because the lack of rain to put out the fires. All of the grass is brown and the leaves on the trees and turning and falling as well.  All of the complexes and gardens are watering non stop to try to keep things alive.

It was interesting seeing the gardens like this.  The main lawns are all dry and brown and Swan Lake is very low.  So low the swans can walk across certain areas.  That said the actual flowers and National Orchid garden have been kept watered and beautiful.

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We even got lucky enough to see a monitor lizard when we first got there.

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It was a dry hot walk but just the thing after having a big Mexican lunch on a Sunday afternoon.

 

The big 4-0

On February 17th Ken turned 40.  He wasn’t looking forward to this birthday so we tried to make it not so painful.

The weekend before we went for a yummy breakfast at Slappy Cakes.

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To Din Tai Fung for his favorite dumplings

IMG_4804 IMG_4803Ken took the girls to the Singapore Airshow, something he has wanted to do since we first moved here and he saw the first poster.

IMG_0128 IMG_0131 IMG_0129 IMG_0130 IMG_0132I made him steak on his birthday and we had a few people over to help celebrate with Smokey’s wings and cupcakes the day after. I didn’t get any pictures we were too busy having fun.

IMG_0008It was wonderful celebration of the first 40 years and a great beginning of the next 40.

Explorers

While we were exploring the A & E of NUH Ken and Sadie were exploring Bukit Timah Nature reserve.

Bukit means hill or mountain and Bukit Timah is the highest point in Singapore.  We have been wanting to go exploring there for awhile and it seemed like a good day for Ken and Sadie to go for a hike.

They had tons of fun looking at plants and trees. They saw some interesting cridders, like a giant ant, and made tree log faces.

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With a leaf as a fan and a stick in her hand, Ken said Sadie ran all the way up the mountain and back.  All in all I would say it was a successful exploration.

It happened one Saturday

We woke up to me with a very sore throat and Ellie with a crick in her neck.  It was decided that I would take Ellie to the doctors with me to have it checked out because she wasn’t having the normal pain of sleeping wrong and I clearly needed something to help get rid of my sore throat.

I took her to the local clinic I was given drugs to cure a throat infection and the doctor looked at Ellie.  He informed us her neck was very hot and having spasms and we need to take her straight to A & E ( the ER to all of my Americans out there).

We bundled into a taxi and went straight to National University Hospital to have it checked out.  They were concerned because she couldn’t straighten her neck the whole way and was in a lot of pain.  There were x-rays to make sure there wasn’t infection because the area was very hot and pain medicine and a neck brace for support were given.  After 7 hours they weren’t sure what it was but they knew it wasn’t an infection.

IMG_4767 IMG_4771We were referred to a specialist who wanted a Cat Scan done to make sure it wasn’t a spinal problem.

IMG_4785 IMG_4783After all of that showed everything was ok we were told she had a wry neck.  Some kids get it and no one is really sure why and what causes it.  It can take a week to a month to correct itself.  In the mean time, it can be very uncomfortable and painful even causing spasms.  We were told that she was to take pain medicine when needed and to wear the brace for a few weeks until it was corrected itself.

We did creative things to decorate and make the brace a little less brace like and more fun.

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It’s been almost a month since it stared and we are due back at the doctors next week.  She is mostly straight and having random pain now and then.  Hopefully she will be totally back to normal again soon.

Chinese New Year: Part 3

Chinese New Year is really 15 days of celebrating.  The kick off of the celebrations is actually New Years Eve and Day.  We celebrated the week before at the girls school and Ken was brave and actually went with a friend down to Chinatown for New Years Eve.

cropped-482516_10100440714137134_1185309441_n.jpgWe learned that New Years Eve is when all the families gather together to have reunions and feast. They eat together and celebrate the coming year.

New Years day is more family time and many places are closed.

We also learned many new traditions:

Have the house full of food, this means you will have food all year

Clean and sweep before New Years Eve to get rid of the bad but don’t sweep New Years Eve or Day for you will sweep out the good luck

Don’t cut your hair the 15 days of New Year or you will give away your good luck

The unmarried and young members of the family receive little red packets called Hong Bao with money in them usually in even denominations, never odd.  Multiples of 8 are the luckiest so $8 or $88.  They are also supposed to be in $2 and brand new $2.  Apparently banks run out of new $2 around Chinese New Year.  The girls were very excited this year to receive their Hong Bao

Saturday night of the New Year weekend we decided to explore the River Hongbao downtown.  Downtown Singapore there is a stadium and a floating stage.  It is used for all kinds of events throughout the year like the National Day Celebration and the River Hongbao during Chinese New Year.

The River Hongbao is actually a large area with rides and food. Of course we saw a lion hanging out and the girls favorite ride was these giant bubbles of air that bounced around on water.

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The entire area is decorated with giant lanterns and lights that were so amazing that you forgot they were actually lanterns.

IMG_4741 IMG_4747 IMG_4754 IMG_4757 IMG_4729It was very crowded and we later found out that Saturday night was the night everyone went.  Apparently New Years Eve and day were much less crowded.   Even with the crowds the lights and the views made it worth the trip.

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Chinese New Year part 2 – Ellie’s school

Like at Sadie’s school, Ellie’s school had a Chinese New Year celebration as well. It was an all day celebration full of fun.

There was lion dances:

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They also did the Dragon Dance which we hadn’t seen and was very fun to watch.  There was a huge paper dragon that was on sticks.  The dancers controlled the movement via the sticks almost like a puppet.  The movement was so fast and so real. It made it very exciting to watch.

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IMG_4634IMG_0082Ellie also was chosen from her year to do one of the traditional Chinese dances.  We were so proud of her and all that she learned.

IMG_4654 IMG_4653The costumes were awesome and having never seen the dances before it was very interesting to see.