Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Photo Book......Finally

I've been home for almost three months now.  Time flies.  And the blog seems to have lost it's purpose....although my effort really started to drop off after the first couple of years.  I did finally get my book together of pictures from my travel this past summer.  It's a brief highlight of the things I did and saw. 

Hope everyone has had a great Thanksgiving and start to the holiday season!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mongolia photos

Some pics from my trip last week.

Horseback riding around Lake Khovsgal.


Three weeks ago this was covered in thick ice and my guide couldn't walk further. There are now two blocks left in the shadows of the August sun. 

A reindeer from the reindeer nation people. Those antlers are big! 

Climbing the sand dunes. 

Milk tea dumplings on a rainy day. Yum! 

Some say the Switzerland of Asia (Lake Khovsgal). 

The kids and I after I rode one of their camels. The boy (11) carved some camels from wood and I bought one. They also offered, and I tried, camel's milk. 

An old Russian van. Lots of these left from socialist times. 

There were many herds of horses being raised in Gobi. Here is a mom and baby we drove by. 

One of the gers I stayed in. 

The Olympics building in the capital. Mongolia focused on wrestling, judo, boxing and archery and had some of the best results given their small population (~2 million). 

Riding a camel in Gobi. 

Running camel herd that was previously sitting across our road :). 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rub-a-dub-dub

I have issues with the showers in Asia. The issue generally being me, not the showers themselves.

One trip to Bali with a friend I took cold showers because the warm water never came. It was okay because it was open air and warm outside. Come to find out, my friend had nice warm showers and I just didn't know how to work the faucet. Unfortunately, that has not been the only time in my three years here.

My first two showers in Mongolia went okay. I had temperatures I could work with and enough water to wash myself. My third shower was only cold water. I am sure I missed a switch or something but I could not wash my hair. It was a cool night and staying warm was more important at that point than clean hair. Although it was a mess after a day on dusty roads and playing in the sand dunes. Oh well, no one is here to see me.

This morning I had the opposite problem. Too hot! Once I figured out how to get the water to the shower spigot and not the tub faucet, I couldn't find any cold water. I could barely keep my hand in the water much less my body. I tried just my hair but it hit my scalp and that was enough of that. To the sink with a cup of water for my hair. It worked okay but not well, so I decided to just try conditioner and at least get the tangles of my rat's nest sorted. About 45 minutes later and no time for breakfast, I had a sufficient braid.

Hopefully it (the braid) lasts until our next destination this afternoon in the north and I can master a new shower ;).

Gobi highlights

I was in Gobi, a southern province in Mongolia most known for the Gobi desert. We did lots of driving and trying to stay cool. We didn't hit a paved road outside of the airport parking lot. It was the smallest airport I have seen :)!

I did a camel ride (ouch!), found some fun local souvenirs, played in the sand dunes, carved my name in the Flaming Cliffs, drank camel's milk and laid my hands on some remaining winter's ice in the middle of this desert land. It has been a fun, yet low key 2.5 days and I am waiting in the airport for my flight back to the capital. Tomorrow morning we head for the north.

Happy Monday :)!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Layover in Beijing

Arrived at 6am, expected to depart at 3pm. This left some time to amuse myself in the airport. I spent it at the lounge which was pretty nice. I found a private sleeping room, skyped home and took a nap for a couple hours. My overnight flight didn't offer much sleep.

The entertainment room offered Olympic highlights in mandarin, a coke and some ice cream. The nine or so hours went fairly quickly. Having my iPad is really nice. Although no Facebook or blog access online. Then you remember you are in China :).

Go team USA!

Mongolia bound

I don't remember where I am in my countdown, but it is closer. One week in Mongolia starts now. Flight departs in one hour, then a long layover in Beijing and on to Ulan Bataar (sp?, capital of Mongolia).

I will hike in the Gobi desert, ride a horse around Lake Khovsgal (sp again) sleep in a ger and hear some throat singing. I have a tour guide and it will be roughing it moreso than I have done in a while.

Will miss the Olympics, so cheer on team USA for me!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Empty

38...

It is empty now and ready for a cleaning today. So ready for this move nonsense to be over ;)!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Disappearing Act

39...

My stuff is quickly being packed up and disappearing. I hope I did a good job sorting and everything that has to come with me the next six weeks is not packed. Fingers crossed!

Although I foresee at least one emergency/panic in the near future. :)

So much stuff!

40...

I started packing what I need for the next one to two months. Wednesday the movers are here and they are packing for my ocean shipment. Meanwhile I need hiking clothes for the desert, long johns for the cool nights in the woods, boat wear for my cruise and winter sweaters for the glacier walks. It has been a little complicated to sort this all out.

But not to worry! I have plenty of underwear for the next month+. :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

YouTube Student

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It is amazing how helpful YouTube is! Since in Singapore, I have used it to learn how to cut my own bangs, methods to apply eye shadow, how to eat a passion fruit and how to dive with a snorkel mask and tube.

The Internet makes this living abroad thing so much easier. I have a uS phone number for less than $5/month that people call me on and I can call them in the US. I get quick updates on people's lives and don't feel completely forgotten. I can still pay my bills online and check on bank balances. I have friends' blogs to read and my own to write. I can read publications from home and keep current. I can also stream current TV. :)

I am not sure how they did it back in the day. Probably a month to send mail. That would be tough. I am so thankful for my easy connections to family and friends. But my Internet leaves this week....

Badminton

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I went to a badminton tourney a few weeks back. I saw the youth Olympic matches and was interested, so figure adults should be more fun, right?

It was.

They make it look simple and I know it is not seen as a real popular sport in the US, but the players were impressive. There were some good, close matches. We saw men, women, singles and doubles. The crowd that was there was pretty lively too. A good time.

Broken

43...

Everything must know I am leaving.

My laptop fritzed on me this weekend. Today at work the thing that holds my ID broke. A couple weeks back my fob for my condo broke off the key chain. My guest room fan is broken.

Let's hope it sticks to the small stuff!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Naked!

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This morning I had a prelim walk through of the apartment to see what needed fixing. Then, the cleaning company came to take away my blinds and chair coverings. Per contract, I have to have them dry cleaned before turning over my apartment. My place will be a bit naked for the next week :). Movers come Wednesday, cleaning Thursday, handover on Friday and then I start travels about midnight Saturday. A little overwhelmed right now, but working through it. Have a great friday and weekend everyone!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Where are the bugs??

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There's a fire, where are the alarms??


Oh wait, it's just the regular fogging for bugs and what not.  It is sprayed/fogged mid-morning.  I hope it isn't toxic.  I've walked through it a couple times at my condo.  It does help keep the bugs away though! :)

Bunny in a basket

46...

New meaning to pet carrier....


Crime Stoppers

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Have I mentioned Singapore is safe? I will one more time.  It's funny because I don't see uniformed cops patrolling like you would in the US.  In fact, I rarely see them.  Instead I started noticing cameras.  On the bus. At intersections.  I now firmly believe that the whole city is on camera and in some underground building there is a team of cops just monitoring everything through video feeds.  You mess up, they will find you.

A bit Big Brother, but it does seem to work.  When there is an occasional crime scene, you may see a sign similar to this one.  No door to door questioning of the neighbors like on the TV shows. Read the sign and call in your tip.

Crime and crime stopping is a tad different here.  On the flight in I only recently realized they tell you anyone found with drugs upon entrance to Singapore is punishable with the death penalty.  That is some serious punishment.

As a law-abiding resident, I have very much enjoyed the benefits of camera watching and strict punishments. Should I ever find myself or a loved one in trouble though....I would much rather take it up in the US courts :).

Monday, July 16, 2012

Changi Airport

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Daily posts are clearly too much to handle :).  It is not only the time though, but having a new interesting topic to talk about.  Saturday I came home from India and arrived at the airport in Singapore at 6am.  Timing works well to stop by McD's on the way out and get some McDonald's breakfast.  Then head home for a nap on a full tummy.  Saturday was no different.

The Singapore airport is really great and I'll miss it.  It can have a lot of people but never really seem busy.  There is rarely a long line to check in (may at 10-15 minute wait).  I get to use a scanner through immigration which takes about 1 minute.  There are free luggage carts all over.  And most places I fly get me a lot of miles and keep my Star Alliance status in gold :).

The one thing I don't care for is security.  Instead of having it right after check-in like in the US, it is at the gate.  It is nice because you avoid long lines and only go through prior to boarding, but it means that liquids purchases can not be brought through.  However, I recently (last couple of weeks) found out about two ways around this.  1) Bring an empty water bottle along and you can fill it inside the waiting area.  2) Buy drinks from 7/11 and they will seal them in a bag to take through security for you.  Both very helpful and wish I would have figured them out earlier.

If you get time to fly into or layover at Singapore, I recommend it.  The airport is nice, clean and pretty efficient.  For long layovers, they have areas to lay down, a movie theater, butterfly garden and a giant indoor slide.

I am not looking forward to the return to US airlines and airports :(.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Good-bye India (for now!)

49...

I am at the airport in Bangalore India now waiting for my flight home. India has really grown on me these last few years and this is probably my last visit for a while, though I hope not.

If you haven't been here, I suggest a recent movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I watched it on the flight here Wednesday night and really liked it. I think it presents some of the charm of India.

I won't say I was convinced on my first trip here. It is chaos! :) A good chaos, I have found. The traffic goes wherever there is space. Horns honk galore. Cows are in the middle of the road. Vehicles may include bicycles, cars, monster old bus tanks, tractors, ox carts, three wheelers, motorbikes and of course a pair of feet. The road sides are not the cleanest. The poor live next door to the corporate manicured lawns. Eateries require sinks to wash up after eating with Mother Nature's utensils (hands). It is different. And as I experienced it more, I relaxed and came to appreciate it. The items listed start to blend into normal activities.

I now find myself a bit more relaxed when off the plane in Bangalore. I really have grown to enjoy and sometimes crave the food. Love that naan! Really like paneer also. I haven't seen much else of India outside Bangalore. One day in Mysore to see an old palace that was very impressive. I have the Taj Mahal on my travel list but I think I need two to three weeks minimum to travel in India. Things move slower and I will want to relax and enjoy them.

India is different than the US or Singapore, that is for sure. But that I will miss it is also a surety!

The only India pic on my iPad - ready to tour a local engine manufacturing plant.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Podcasts

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Do you listen to podcasts?? I started to when I left the US. I found they help me feel more connected to home. Mostly I listen to WGN personalities from Chicago. You get sports, weather, current events, etc. Best part, they are free!!

There are video and audio options. For a little while I tried out yoga at home. I also found free tv commercials to use in a presentation.

If you haven't tried or browsed the podcasts on iTunes, I do recommend it. Kinda like radio on dvr but free. I really love that free part :).

Happy Thursday!

Oops!

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Fly to India and I forget to post. Here are some Cambodia pics from last weekend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Too Trusting

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Singapore is safe.  People follow the rules.  I've lost my purse a couple times with cash in it and it was later found fully in tact.  I've left my apartment unlocked before.  It just doesn't seem in the nature of people here to steal or do harm.

This has somewhat lulled me into a sense of security.  Until tonight.  I try to keep this blog positive, but I'm a little peeved.  Here's a bit of a rant coming your way.....

UPDATE: Before you read further, I did hear back from my apartment manager and things have now been explained. Goes to show how important communication is and I probably should have waited more than an hour to record my reaction :). Although explained, it would have been nice to have been told in advance about the expansion of work so that I wasn't surprised.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Discovering new foods

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I have tried to be pretty adventurous in trying new foods while in Asia.  If you knew me as a child, I think you would be shocked with the foods that leave my plate.  I was definitely a picky eater.  My travels to Europe and Asia have expanded my palate but have also helped me to always be willing to try at least one bite.

Things I never ate as a child but do now:
  • Tomatoes 
  • Potatoes, in any format other than thin french fries
  • Avocado
  • Red, yellow and orange peppers (still working on green)
  • Raw fish in "sushi rolls" - have yet to tackle sashimi
  • Oysters
  • Rice
  • Foi gras
  • Asian sauces
  • Chinese tea
  • Fried egg
  • Broccoli
  • ....and the list could go on.


And here are some of the items I've consumed which I would say are more on my exotic spectrum:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lazy Sunday

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Today we rode bikes into town and did some more market shopping. Maybe I am getting sad about losing cheap Asian shopping because I spent all but my last $5.

The bike was fun but hot. Thankfully we survived without accident. At the pool today I worked on trip planning to Sri Lanka. My plan is to finish up work this month, do some traveling in Asia during August and fly back to the US on 31 August. Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Maldives and New Zealand are on the schedule and most of the arrangements have been booked. Should be a great time and I am really looking forward to it.

We leave Siem Reap in a couple hours and head back to Singapore for work on Monday. It has been a lovely weekend and I would highly recommend to anyone.

Although there has been some guy on a loud speaker all afternoon. Not sure what he's saying...

Update: It is the Buddhist monks chanting. Guess Sunday is most people's religious day :).

And we passed a Harley convention on the way to the airport!
video

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Angkor what?? :)

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Friday night a friend and I came to Siem Reap, Cambodia and have really fallen in love! It is a small Asian city, less than one million we learned today. It is very clean, uses USD, and is cheap ($0.50 beers).

We had a guide take us to Angkor Wat, which are very old (~1,000 yrs) temples that were used as Buddhist and Hindu temples and (maybe more well known) served as a backdrop for Tomb Raider. We got there for sunrise but as it is rainy season it was semi cloudy. It was still very impressive and this way we missed most of the crowds.

It is a large complex of temples built in the jungle. I got to try out my new hiking gear and we explored from 6 to 11:30. Our guide shared a lot of new things and spoke really great English. He recommended a spot for lunch and local dishes which were excellent! We came back for pool time while the sun was out and nap time when the rain clouds came. Tonight was spent having some Khmer BBQ and souvenir shopping. Some good finds ;).

More pics to come, but here was our refreshing pool.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Happy Holidays

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No fireworks here. Just a normal Wednesday. I don't think I've talked about holidays in Singapore before (and if I have, apologies). I like Singapore and the acceptance of everyone's differences without going to the politically correct extremes. I will miss this aspect of Singapore and probably cringe a few times after I move back to the States.

In Singapore there are generally eleven public holidays and these are split to represent the majority of people here. Three national days - independence day, labor day and new year's day. Two Christian days - Christmas and Good Friday. Two Chinese days - Chinese new year x2. Two Muslim days - Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji. One Hindi day - Deepavali. One Buddhist day - Vesak day. So I don't get 4th of July or Thanksgiving off, but I get some other randoms that usually work into nice three and four day weekends.

Flew to Cambodia tonight and had a fun night out. We have an early sunrise tour planned so I am headed to bed shortly. A fun weekend to all!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Langkawi, Malaysia

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I'm trying to fit in as many activities as possible before going home.  It helps when I have other people to do them with and especially when they do all the planning and I just show up :).  That's what happened last weekend.  I joined Robyn and Stephanie for a girls' weekend in Langkawi, Malaysia which is basically a beachy tourist island.

Saturday was an afternoon at the pool and beach at our hotel then headed into town for dinner and drinks.  We found a cute restaurant on the beach that was a bit ramshackle in appearance but ended up being lots of fun.  I had some bbq squid that was amazing! Amazing! :)  Bad part, I cut the bottom of my foot on the beach somewhere.  Thankfully it really wasn't too bad.

Sunday was a day of sailing/boating on a private catamaran.  Okay, there was another Asian couple who joined us, but they kept to themselves and it felt like it was private.  They even played our "boat" mix from my ipod.  We got to swim, kayak, lay on the front while we sailed around.  It was a really great day and not that expensive.  Lunch was provided and was really good.

Only down side was a bout of sea sickness for me and Stephanie.  Next time, take the meds earlier, eat breakfast and skip that last midnight drink the night before ;).

Some pics from the weekend.......

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

...and the countdown begins :)

58...


I have less than 2 months before I board my plane back to Chicago.  Less than one month at work.  Time is flying by very quickly and I'm trying to get things wrapped up and sorted out before it's too late!

I have gotten so relaxed in my blog postings that I feel a renewed effort is required.  I'm going to start the countdown blog and force myself to post something, even a little thing, each day until I board the plane.

If I've done my math correctly I have 58 days left as of today.

What else is special about today? It's Independence Day aka 4th of July!  The Singapore independence day is 9 August and I will miss it this year as I'll be in Mongolia.

I hope everyone at home has a great holiday, wonderful cookout food and lots of fun with family and friends.  I do miss my Midwest summer cookouts.  Luckily, I'll make it back in time for some Labor Day fun!

Get those beer brats cooking :)


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Singaporitis

It's like it's my "last semester of school" and I've gone more than a bit lazy.  Things aren't as wonderful new, so it doesn't seem as worthwhile to share them / record them on the blog. And I'm focused on getting things wrapped up - at work, my bucket list, etc.

It's been almost 3 years and time has flown by.  My successor at work has already made his first trip over from the US.  It's weird travelling to places with people on their first time again.  I remember all the things I noticed at first which don't even phase me now.  To keep the hotel electricity on, you have to put your room key in a slot by the door.  Different type of security checks at the airport.  Warm washcloths on the Sing Air flights.  No Diet Coke, but Coke Light.  No drinking the water from the faucet outside of Singapore. The price of an alcoholic beverage in Singapore.  And many more things.

I haven't booked my flight yet, but the plan is to move back to the US Labor Day weekend :).  I will soon be a US resident again!  It is a little bittersweet, but I am looking forward to it.  I already feel like I'm doing my round of "lasts".  Last trip to A, last meal at B, etc.  But I'm trying to get in some new things as well!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pool weekend

It was a tough weekend here :). I am hosting a colleague from the US these few weeks and I took advantage of her hotel pool. Wednesday night mom and a friend arrive. Then back to Bali for Easter weekend. Yep, I sure do love that Bali!

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 - A New Year

It's hard to believe that I'm about 2 1/3 years through my assignment here in Singapore.  I'm suppose to come home in like 8-9 months!  Three years sounded so long from the start and now it's flying by me.  I had a good friend move back just before the holidays and as he was preparing for the move, it really made me think about my time here as well and how quickly I'll find myself in pack-up mode.

I'm not really sure when it happened, but somewhere during these last 2+ years Singapore has become home.  I can already see some of the things I will miss (and not miss).  But as time winds down, I need to get in as much fun as I can.  Here's to my Singapore Bucket List...








1) Spend a full, sunny day at the infinity pool atop Marina Bay (thanks Ameer for the pic!)
2) Eat lots of good Asian food.  I need to try at least 3 new restaurants a month.
3) Go to the Bird Park
4) Hike Bukit Timah
5) Do the fish pedicure
6) Try foot reflexology (basically a foot massage that affects your whole body)
7) Ride a bike from East Coast Park to Changi Village
8) Go to two more shows at the Esplanade (theatre complex)
9) Night out at Butter Factory (and any other cool clubs I haven't yet attended)
10) KTV night out (private room karaoke)
**Subsequent Additions**
11) Fly in the wind tunnel

....I'm sure there's more that I can't think of right now.  Will have to add them as they come to mind.

This is without mention of my incomplete travel adventures.  That list is quite long and I won't be able to complete it.  Here's the places I haven't been yet, but are definitely still on the list.
  • India
  • Japan
  • Mongolia
  • Cambodia
  • Vietnam (south)
  • Laos
  • Sri Lanka
  • Australia (except Melbourne)
  • New Zealand
  • Philippines
  • Maldives
  • Bhutan
  • Any other tropical island nearby :) (i.e. within a 9 hour flight)
I suppose my New Year's resolution is to accomplish as many of these things as possible.  If any sound interesting, please come along!  I think I've got Mom committed to at least one more trip. ;)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Continuing to Penang, Malaysia

We had an uneventful trip home from Bali, slept in my own bed a couple nights, caught up on work emails and then packed for a New Year's holiday to Penang, Malaysia.

Cindy, a friend of Stephanie also from the US, joined us for a total of three lovely ladies. We arrived in Penang on Thursday, which is an island just off the northwest coast of Malaysia. We tried to book the ferry for Friday to another island better suited for snorkeling and beaches, but it was full. We took our guide books on the road to determine plan B and found a couple of local outdoor bars downtown to read and relax. We headed back to the hotel to catch our lounge singers putting on a show. They even sang one of our requests :).

Friday we went to the sister resort on the beach which had nice pools and an outdoor bar. We had some drinks, played pool, met some friends and headed to the Hard Rock for dinner. We called it an early night as we were planning to hike at the national park on NYE day. Saturday morning was nice and we took the bus to the opposite side of the island to hike. About 10 minutes after arrival, we realized that a wallet was missing. A very nice local lady offered to drive us down the road where the buses stop for a break. We were so lucky! The driver remembered us and we immediately got the wallet back. Crisis averted!! We think the driver was a little freaked out when Cindy hugged him though ;).

The hike was good and I of course lagged a little. We made it nonetheless. At the end of the hike we were rewarded with a nice white beach. There were a lot of locals there as well who are mainly Muslim, which puts a slight damper on running around in your bikini when they are covered. We wanted to be respectful and decided to sit and rest a bit. I eventually got warm enough that I wanted to try the waters, but figured I would leave on my top to be more considerate. I failed to think that through and my thin top was see-through and super clingy once wet. Luckily I had a dry top along that I changed into. Shortly after, we were on our way back. The beach was suppose to have turtles and we found out later that if we had walked all the way to the end there were about five turtles currently nesting. Doh! We missed them.

For New Year's Eve, we were conflicted on where to go but finally followed a suggestion from the hotel bellman and went to a British pub near the hotel. We met a variety of people - Finnish, Dutch, Turkish and Kiwi (New Zealander) among them. It was a fun night had by all and we stayed out a bit into 2012.

For New Year's day we figured to be low key and by the pool. Mother nature had different plans as the clouds rolled in. We decided on a movie (Sherlock Holmes - recommend) and found a bowling alley on the walk home. Later that night we headed back for three games, each of us winning once and breaking 100 at least once! We were very happy with that outcome. The only complaint was the complete disregard and lack of enforcement of the large no smoking signs posted in several areas. I do miss those no smoking laws!

Our last day was spent back at the sister resort relaxing by the pool. It was a nice way to end vacation. I saw Stephanie and Cindy off tonight and tomorrow morning I head home. It has been a good holiday season in Asia and I'm sorry to see it end.

Hope all my friends and family had a great and safe New Year celebration!