Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reb & Rach's Rad Rendezvous

Two weekends ago it seemed like EVERYONE was out of the country except for Rachel and I, so we decided to have a girls only weekend. It turned out to be just a girls only half day, but it was still tons of fun. And you have no idea how long it took us to come up with the awesome, alliterative name for our weekend. Anyways, what we decided to do was check out Pulau Ubin for the day. Pulau Ubin is an island off the east tip of Singapore that kind of shows you what Singapore was like 30 years ago. I was surprised that the government had left the land alone for all this time, but what I found out in some research was that the government actually did try to modernize the island, but nature lovers resisted to the point where they backed out. And then the government realized that the tiny island in all of its olden-day glory was still a pretty good tourist attraction, so I guess now they're happy since they're still making money.

On the day of our trip, Rachel and I left PGP at 6:30am. Our timing was impeccible, and we managed to get to the island and be on our bikes by 8:30. The only way to get to the island is by a bumboat, which was pretty much the most ghetto ferry ever. There's no clear boarding area, and no one there to hold your hand, so you just have to board and hope you don't slip and fall. And they're all different based on your driver, but our boat was pretty messy. Note the crappy toilet seat that Rachel was convinced our driver used in between ferrying people back and forth.

Once on the island, we were able to rent bikes for only $10 for the whole day. Luckily mine didn't have any problems, but Rachel's was stuck on the highest gear. I do not envy her at all since the island was pretty hilly. After looking at the map of the island, we vowed to make it as far as we could in one day since we didn't think we'd be able to do it all.

Our first goal was to reach the Babut Hut, which is all the way on the left. We got there in less than half an hour, and the view was quite disappointing, as it was just in the middle of nowhere. After that, we biked for awhile longer, and then came upon a path that was blocked off. It was a path on the map, and we thought maybe it was just blocked off to cars, so we took it anyways. Come to find out, the reason it was blocked off was because it was flooded. It started off as just a minor problem, and we had to ride through puddles on a thin path that was most likely home to many snakes and other creepy things.

It turned out to be a much bigger problem when we reached the bridge though. It was easily at least a foot deep in water and there was no way to go through it without getting our feet wet, and even then we couldn't see around the corner so we didn't know what to expect once we got to the next spot of dry land.

So we had to ride back through the snake infested path. After that, we managed to get all the way out to the Chek Jawa wetlands on the east coast without even realizing it. We got to walk along a boardwalk and through a mangrove forest in order to reach the ocean.

And somehow, the ocean at Pulau Ubin is ten times better than the ocean at Singapore. It's so much bluer and prettier and more inviting on a hot day than any water you'll find elsewhere. Probably because all of the oil tankers aren't sitting just off shore. The only problem was a slight defect in the boardwalk. And by slight I mean that it had actually collapsed into the water. But everything else aroudn it seemed safe so I guess it was ok.

We felt pretty lucky since we got to see wild boar on the island as well. I guess they're shy so not many people get to see them. And it reminded me of how, at the beginning of the semester, Kenny's one goal was to catch a boar and kill it with his bare hands. So I guess Pulau Ubin is the place to go if you want to do that.

The last thing we saw before leaving the island was an old quarry filled with water. The color was so bright that it didn't even look real. I could have sworn that somebody took buckets of food coloring and dumped it in the water.

And that's Pulau Ubin in a nutshell. One of the last undeveloped places in Singapore. So small that it's easily biked and walked in its entirety in under 4 hours. But still the perfect spot for Reb & Rach's Rad Rendezvous.

And now I feel accomplished for writing two posts in one day. As London Tipton would say, "Yay Me!"


Adventures in Apartment Living

So a few weekends ago (a long 3 weekends ago), we had to opportunity visit/house-sit a friend's apartment on the north side of the island. It was the best place I've stayed in since coming to Singapore. There was a giant flat screen TV, an Xbox Kinect (coolest thing ever; I felt like I was Tom Cruise in Minority Report), a clean kitchen, A CAT, a keyboard, a king sized bed, and a clean shower with a lot of water pressure. I felt like I was in heaven, and Karen and Kathleen definitely made themselves at home.

Those two hated the cat though. Which I was ok with, since it meant that I got to play with him more! He's the cutest, friendliest, most tail-less cat ever; the polar opposite of Pixie.

The best thing about having a clean kitchen was that I was able to cook up the mac and cheese that KC so thoughtfully packed for me before I left home. She was right that I wouldn't be able to find it anywhere here. And it tasted like heaven. Nothing like good comfort food from home.

And having a keyboard to play was amazing. It makes me seriously consider buying one for my apartment next year. Between Nick's skills on the keyboard and Karen's skills on the guitar, we were able to put Kathleen to sleep on her recliner in the living room.

The following morning when we woke up and Nick was gone, the first thing I wanted to do was clean the house. It was a true bachelor pad. And you may say I'm just like my mother, but I'm sure ANYONE would have wanted to clean up. There were cups everywhere (sounds like what the house would be like if Daddy lived alone), kitty litter tracked through the whole house, unmade beds, and carpets that hadn't been vaccuumed since Nick came to Singapore in January. The first thing I did was put the sheets in the laundry and start sweeping the hallways. The amount of dirt and kitty litter in the back hallway alone was revolting. After sweeping, I decided to tackle the pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. Always the lazy one, I didn't feel like doing them by hand, so I loaded the mini dishwasher. The only problem was there was no dish detergent. There was some Dial soap by the sink though, and even though the label said "not for dishwasher use," I didn't think there was actually any harm in putting it in the dishwasher. I mean, if it cleans the dishes, it cleans the dishes. Ten minutes later I came back into the kitchen and this is what I found:

If the label on the soap had just warned about this, I would have washed the dishes by hand. Now I understand why Mommy always says, "I want to explain to you why you're not allowed to do this." Valuable lesson learned. And I passed on my knowledge to my future roommates so this doesn't happen in our apartment next year. When I told this story to my aunt later that day, she just shook her head and said, "college kids." I guess everyone has to learn this mistake at some point.

Besides the slight mishap, it was a fun weekend. We've been given the option to go back on weekends, but given the hour and a half commute, I might just stay in PGP. It's a lot more convenient, and now my bathroom is much cleaner! Although it's still lacking, I am grateful for the step that was taken towards cleanliness in our dorm bathroom.

Anyways, I know it's been awhile, but I'm hoping to catch up on my blogging in the next few days. Miss and love everyone at home =)


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Here Comes The Sun

I officially fail at blogging. Oops. Anyways, Here Comes The Sun was the official theme song of our trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Our trip started bright and early last Friday, since we had to leave PGP at 5am, and we even managed to catch the sunrise at Changi.

A few hours later, we arrived in Cambodia! The main form of transportation (at least for us tourists) is the tuk-tuk. A little frightening to ride in at times, and quite bumpy, but it allows you to experience the sights and sounds in a completely different light.

We were all pretty exhausted by the time we reached our hostel, but Jayne would not let us just sit there and do nothing, so we hopped back into our tuk-tuk to head out to the landmine museum. What our driver said would be a 20 minute drive was upwards of 35 minutes, but we did get some nice views of the Cambodian countryside.

When we arrived at the museum, they were closing up but were nice enough to let us in anyways. Experiencing the landmine museum was one of the most shocking and eye-opening things I have ever experienced. Hundreds of missiles and other explosives that have torn up the Cambodian countryside were on display and there was plenty of information to educate us on the severity of the situation. Children and farmers find unexploded bombs in fields, and not knowing what they are they kick them around. Then, without even realizing it, it explodes next to them and they lose legs or arms. The one ray of hope in the museum was that the entry fee goes towards the demining efforts in Cambodia and towards helping children who have been hurt in landmine accidents. The founder of the museum, Aki Ra, has been named a CNN Hero for his efforts in making Cambodia a safer country for its citizens. Information on the Landmine Museum Relief Fund can be found at and information on Aki Ra and his demining efforts can be found at

After the sobering experience of the landmine museum, we managed to get back into town (albeit 30 minutes late) to see a traditional Cambodian dance. It was a little on the snooze side since it wasn't very upbeat dancing, but it was neat to experience all the same. On the way home, we stopped by the outdoor market, which competed with The Blue Pumpkin as our favorite place to visit in Siem Reap. The Blue Pumpkin was this cute little restaurant/cafe, where you could eat sitting on couches with tables on your lap. And all the food was delicious. Needless to say, we visited that place every day for the three days we were there. And I'm pretty sure we visited the market at least twice every day. So those were some popular destinations.

After we got back to the hostel, we took it easy since we had to be up early for sunrise on Saturday. Max's two friends from Sweden met us in Cambodia, and since he could play the guitar we just had a giant singalong. Even though we only knew a small percentage of the words to each song it was still mucho fun. And it got even better when we ran into a girl who happened to have a violin with her! The only thing that was needed to complete the perfect camping scene was a campfire, although I suppose it would have been way to hot for that.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early. We left our hostel around 5:15 so we could catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat, the most famous temple in Cambodia. When we were first arriving, it was pitch black and locals had to lead us to the viewing spot with flashlights. Slowly, though, it started getting lighter and lighter. Our first glimpse of the sun came around 6:45, and EVERYONE started scrambling to take pictures.

Watching the sun continue to rise right behind Angkor Wat was, needless to say, pretty cool. Pretty much like nothing I've ever seen before.

We also managed to capture the perfect group shot with the sun and the temple in the background.

After watching the sunrise, we spent a couple hours walking around Angkor Wat and then met our tuk-tuk drivers who had been patiently waiting for us since early morning. We continued on to see Ta Prohm, which is famous for being the tomb raider temple. After Ta Prohm, we stopped for a quick lunch, then headed off to Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom is not an actual temple itself, but rather a complex of temples and terraces and such. The famous temple at Angkor Thom is Bayon, which was built by a king and dedicated to himself. As if he didn't have enough money, he later built a temple dedicated to his mother, then his father, then his son. This was my favorite temple of the day since there were no marked routes to follow. Since it looks exactly the same on all 4 sides, you can basically get lost inside of it which was kind of fun. After eventually making our way out, our tuk-tuk driver took us to the base of some hill. Apparently there was a temple at the top with a great view of the surrounding area. After reaching the top, and climbing very narrow and scary stairs, we were able to see out over all the trees and temples. I didn't stay up there for long though since it was the middle of the day and the sun was unbearably hot.

All in all, it was a fun-filled day with MANY cool photos and sights. Since I took so many photos I'm not posting them here, but there are two complete Facebook albums up!

After returning to the hostel, we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening. Pam and I got half hour massages for only USD5, we went to the market and got 7 "Same Same... But Different" t-shirts for the group for USD12 (total), and went out to dinner at The Green Star restaurant. Our pictures with our shirts on are the best =)

Kurt confessed afterwards that he almost turned around for the first photo, which would have made it that much funnier. And what's ironic about the first picture was that Max was the most tired out of all of us since he had just woken up from a short nap, yet he looked like the one person who was loaded with energy. What the rest of us were feeling was demonstrated by Pam and Eugenia after we got dessert.

After traveling to Cambodia, I can honestly say it's like no other country I've ever visited. It definitely made me realize how sheltered I am in little old Mystic, Connecticut, USA. Everything about the trip was amazing, and I loved seeing the ruins of the temples, but if I had to pick a favorite part of the trip I would say it was the people. Cambodians have absolutely nothing, yet they are so much happier than people in Singapore or America. The children especially were the best. On our way out to the countryside we passed many kids who waved to us as we drove by. Eugenia made it a habit after that to wave to every single person we saw after that.

On Saturday, there were children EVERYWHERE at the temples trying to sell us stuff. It was very hard to say no as they were extremely persistent.

They were selling everything from bracelets to books to postcards to flutes. They would follow you as you were walking and cycle through the same few phrases. "10 for one dollar"... "come back and buy my bracelet lady"... "same same but different." Max noted that they were especially persistent with the ladies, and I told him that's because we actually had hearts and they knew if they pestered us enough we would eventually give in. While it sounds like it might have been annoying to be surrounded by that, it was actually quite amusing. The kids had a good sense of humor, and tried many different selling tactics. They told us they took credit cards and they told us to borrow money from friends if we said that we didn't have any money. And all of them could count to 10 since they were often selling things in sets of ten. However, when I asked a little boy how high he could count, he couldn't make it past 14 of 15, which shows how even something as basic as education we take for granted since there are so many people who don't even have that privelege.

In total, I managed to take 500 pictures in Cambodia, but if I was asked to pick a favorite, I would tell you it's this one:

This particular boy wasn't selling anything and he didn't even say much. All he had with him as he was walking by was that sack draped over his shoulder. As he was walking past he saw the camera in my hand and pointed to it, then pointed to himself saying, "me, me." When I asked if he wanted a picture of himself he nodded, so I took this picture and then showed it to him. His face instantly lit up and he started grinning when he saw the picture of himself. This specific moment was so profound to me, since all it took to make him happy was to see a picture of himself taken. It made me think how much happier the rest of the world would be if we appreciated little things like that.

Moral of the story though is that I was extremely sad to leave Cambodia. Our brief visit was not long enough, and I would gladly go back at any time. Hopefully I'll have the chance to towards the end of the semester!

Anyways, missing everyone at home and thankful I had a great visit with the fam, hugs and kisses!

Love, Reb