Thursday, May 27, 2010

Singapore 2010

Well I was lucky to be sent to Singapore recently for a work training course, I have never been to Singapore (or anywhere is Asia before for that matter) so it was an exciting trip for me.

First things first, the work side. I was on a Competitive Electricity Markets course. 3 days on markets. We had a wide variety of course participants from many backgrounds and nationalities (which made the lunch breaks fun). There were students from Australia, Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Malaysia. The difficult thing was the differing levels of knowledge within the group, for me the course was pitched too low for my level of understanding. Not a bad thing though as it consolidated a few things and also made me realise how much I know about electricity.

Ok, work stuff done. Now onto the rest of the trip.

I flew out of Perth on the red eye, leaving at 1.10am and arriving in Singapore at 6.35 am. The good thing is there is no time difference between Perth and Singapore which makes it easier, however the night flight is a KILLER. I slept a couple of hours before I left Perth, and had an hour or so on the flight, but its not enough and Saturday was a tough day for it.

My first impressions of Singapore were largely around the heat and humidity, followed by the beautiful scenery. It was green and lush!

I had to kill around 4 hours before I could check in at my hotel so I went in search of some food... I walked, and walked and walked. I sweated, and sweated and sweated as well. Finally I found a random 7-11 and got a diet coke and litres of water, these provisions made me feel better pretty much straight away. What I didn't know at the time was that Singapore basically sleeps in till about 10am and stays open late.

In my travels I visited Clarke Quay. Clarke Quay is a historic riverside quay, in the past dozens of bumboats (small boats used to ferry supplies to ships) used to moor here. However, this caused high levels of pollution and eventually the cargo services were relocated. After a river clean up Clarke Quay was developed into a commercial and entertainment area. The development retained much of the historical landscape. Currently, there are numerous restaurants and nightclubs, as well as Chinese junks (ancient chinese sailboats) that have been refurbished into pubs and restaurants. This photo shows Clarke quay (the main shot is a night shot).

After Clarke Quay I continued along Boat Quay. This is another historical area in Singapore, it used to be the busiest part of the old port of Singapore. The bank of the river here resembles the belly of a carp, which according to Chinese belief is where wealth and prosperity lay, therefore many shops were built, crowding the area. These shops have been conserved and the area now houses lots of bars, pubs and restaurants.
Some sculptures near Clarke and Boat Quays.

Finally, I made it to Merlion Park (with the new Casino in the background). The Merlion is an imaginary creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish, used as a mascot of Singapore. After this I wandered back to my hotel on the other side of the river, taking in the sights but not taking photos as I was tired and fading fast. My new camera lens is great, however, it is really heavy and it just contributed to my overall tiredness.

Finally I was able to check in to the hotel for a nice shower and a rest. Revitalised, I headed off to Chinatown. I really enjoyed it here, I bought a new skirt $12, a wall hanging $20, 4 scarves for $10 and 2 dresses for $40. I also had satay chicken, rice and diet coke for $6.80. After walking for a large part of the day I was feeling pretty shattered so I treated myself to a $20 hour long foot reflexology massage- bliss. The first photo below is of the temple and surrounds and the second photo set contains general chinatown photos.After a long day I was done! Sunday started very early with a short taxi ride to the Botanic Gardens. It was beautiful there, however I really didn't explore the whole garden as it was just so humid. I really loved it and I think that it was one of the most beautiful areas I have been to for a while. Much more beautiful than Perth!My main purpose was to visit the National Orchid Garden, and boy I am glad that I did. It was such a beautiful area (and I must admit to loitering in the cool house - for the Orchids that don't like the heat). Over 1000 species and 2,000 hybrids are now found in the Gardens' collection, with about 600 species and hybrids on display. This is the largest display of tropical orchids in the world.I gave the rest of the gardens a miss as I was getting hot and bothered. From here I made a short trip to Little India, but didn't stay long as I didn't feel very comfortable there at all. Here is the only photo I took there.
After the short detour I was more hot and bothered than before, so I mastered the underground railway (MRT) and went off to Orchard Rd, one of the many shopping areas in Singapore. I was totally overwhelmed. So many shops everywhere. I just don't know how people get around them. I didn't buy anything at all, and decided to head home. On the way back to my hotel I stopped came across the following temple.

Later on Sunday I moved to another hotel, visited ex-colleague Vanessa (recent arrivals in Singapore) and had another foot massage!

Monday was the first day of the course, and after the course I met Vanessa for dinner. Following dinner I went on the Singapore Flyer- a giant observation wheel, at the top it is 165m from the ground. I did take photos from the trip but no tripod and lots of glare meant no good photos.

Following the course on Tuesday I headed off to the Butterfly Farm on Sentosa Island, struggling with my camera lens fogging up in the humidity. I also realised how hard good, clear insect shots are!!!
The butterfly park also had some birds ...On my way back to the hotel I stopped in at Vivocity- Singapore's biggest shopping centre. I really didn't know where to start though so I caught the MRT to Chinatown for dinner (see below) and then home.

After the course on Wednesday I met an ex colleague from the Commission (Anthony and his wife Wei) for dinner. They have lived in Singapore for about a year and Wei is Chinese so we visited real Chinatown not tourist chinatown... and it was an experience as well. I let Wei choose dinner, we had Hainanese chicken (dipped in boiling water twice to cook it), fried rice, vegetables and lime juice. Fantastic. After dinner we had a mango sago dessert.... yummm. It was great hanging out with locals as it gives a different perspective on a city.

All in all I had a great time in Singapore and really would like to take Jason there. I won't miss the humidity or mosquitoes however.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Glass bead making

On the weekend I attended a course at the Fremantle arts centre on glass bead making. I went to the course with my workmate Fiona and ex-workmate Sharon.

The arts centre is housed in what was originally the first purpose built lunatic asylum in Western Australia. It has also been a home for "hysterical women". During WW1 and WW2 it was used as a naval base, following as a technical college. It has a colourful history and it is a great setting for arty courses.

Onto glass beadmaking, apparently glass bead making dates back over 3000 yrs... I bet they didn't have the fancy gas burners we had though! We were making wound glass beads this entails getting the glass at a temperature high enough to make it workable and then winding around a steel wire or mandrel coated with graphite. The wound bead, while still hot, can be further shaped by manipulating with graphite, wood, stainless steel or marble tools and paddles. It can also be pressed into a mold in its molten state. While still hot, or after re-heating, the surface of the bead may be decorated with fine rods called stringers of colored glass.
We tried all these techniques... here I am at work and concentrating very hard...The course was all about learning how to do it so the outputs weren't really pretty or uniform, but it was a lot of fun. I only cut myself twice (as my favourite bead broke) and burnt myself once (as I tried to grab a bead hot off the press)... here is the outcome of my day...not too bad really, although in Jason's words I "could do with some practice" hehehe.
A nice way to spend a weekend day though and I would recommend girls having a go. It was lots of fun and it gave me a whole new appreciation of beads!!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Morning Fog

On Saturday morning Jason and I drove down to Busselton for the half ironman. It was a rare rainy day as we left Perth, but as we got closer to Busselton the rain disappeared. Only to be replaced by some surreal fog. Check these two shots I took (from the moving car at 110kmh). I was pretty pleased with them.

The thrombolites

Thrombolites, 'living rocks', are the rock-like structures built by micro-organisms. One of the few places in the world where the thrombolites grow is at Lake Clifton in Western Australia (not far from Mandurah, which is about an hour from Perth). The lake is also one of only two sites known where microbialites occur in water less salty than sea water. The lake contains the largest lake-bound microbialite reef in the southern hemisphere.

On the way home from the Busselton Half Ironman Jason and I stopped in to see these living rocks. We tried to find them this time last year with Rona and Ken, but couldn't find them, as it happens we were only about 100m from where they were!

So after a year's wait, we finally made it back there. We were treated with an absolutely beautiful day. Check the photos out, it was very pretty down there and I got some good photos.
Interestingly enough, I am getting much better at taking landscape photos, which I am pleased with. I used to feel out of my depth with landscapes but I am happy to see some improvements.

In a little more detail regarding where these thrombolites come from (I will admit to borrowing this information from a website): Millions of years ago, earth, as we know it was a little different, there was no oxygen in the atmosphere and there was no protective ozone layer. Scientists believe that things began changing when tiny organisms started to appear (from where, no one knows). These tiny little organisms lived in water and produced oxygen. This oxygen entered the atmosphere and over time created the atmosphere we live in today. Now this process didn't happen overnight, the organisms had to produce large quantities of oxygen over a long period of time before earth could sustain life . One of the ancestors of these tiny organisms are in fact algae, yes those aquatic plants. Stromatolites and thrombolites are created by algae and represent the earliest record of life on earth!! Wow, its pretty amazing.

Here they are up close. The setting was amazing... well almost amazing. There were literally MILLIONS of gnats buzzing around. Check out the photo below for all the bugs. IT was so loud and I was worried about being eaten alive by these bugs. But they don't bite (thank goodness). I am pleased our camera and lens is good enough to pick these bugs up to try and demonstrate what it was like.

Here's Jason checking out the scenery.
We weren't the only ones checking out the thrombolites... check this little dude out.

Natalie and Deano's wedding

During March 2010 I went back to New Zealand for a second wedding, this time is was for Natalie and Deano (triathlon buddies). Jason didn't make it back for this trip as we had only been home for about 3 weeks!

I was lucky enough to get ready with the girls (Natalie, Kendal and Tina). While they were being pampered at the hairdressers (where they had hair, makeup and nails done) I was able to catch up on the last two years!

From the hairdressers we went back to finish getting ready at the Bolton Hotel is an amazing suite. Natalie looked beautiful.
Natalie's sister was originally going to be the usher, but as she was going to fly out from the United Kingdom, there was the unfortunate Volcano eruption... for a while there is was touch and go, but Fiona made it to Wellington by 2.15pm on the day of the wedding after a trip via Singapore and Sydney. Needless to say Fiona's jobs from the wedding were reallocated. I helped out with the ushering and after a minor mishap of going to the wrong church on hill st I was all set. It provided a good opportunity to catch up with everyone as well. Here are the girls getting ready to head into the church.The ceremony itself was lovely, here are a couple of pics for you...Here is the bridal party leaving the Church after the wedding ceremony.
The reception was held at the Miramar Golf Club. I didn't take many photos of this part of the night, but did get the cake cutting.
All in all it was a lovely wedding, with poignant and funny speeches. It was also a lovely opportunity to catch up with some old friends. I enjoyed being back in Wellington for the weekend, although I didn't get anywhere near as much done as I had hoped and I really got thrown by the time difference this trip, sleeping about 7 hours over 4 days!!! Needless to say, the following week at work was pretty tough!