Archives for the month of: July, 2013

Thailand - reflectionsThailand - ladies loo

Oh Thailand, you and I are fickle friends. We have known each other since 1992 on and off over the years and each trip I threaten to throw in the towel on our friendship. This trip was the closest we have come to a permanent break up. We stayed in Mai Khao beach in north Phuket (we were kindly offered a great deal). As an area it has never stuck out the guide book as one to visit but being off the beaten track is my favourite place to be.

But here I encountered a new side of tourism. The Fear Factor. Golf buggies move you between the three resort complexes – this is classed as ‘exploring’. At every turn you are warned about dealing with local taxi drivers, getting ripped off, danger, danger, danger. Stay on their private beach so we can protect you. Protect us from what? Be afraid.

All nationalities are catered for. You can get bento boxes, burgers or pizzas. There were activities – ping pong tournaments, pilates, towel folding classes (really). But every corner you turned the resort sales staff were there; peddling this ‘lifestyle timeshare’. If you express a desire to leave? Eyebrows are raised – why would you want to leave this paradise?

Because we want to see Thailand. Thailand and I were going to fall out, again.

We escaped. (I don’t think we were alone in this.)

We found a beach hawker stall. His food was simple, cheap and tasty and he had a swing that the kids played on for hours. We found Kin Dee restaurant. We went early to watch the sun go down. From their terrace we watched the fisherman walking through the shallows with their nets and then as one all the cicadas began to make their noise and do their thing. It was deafening. Have the prawns in holy basil and garlic chilli with a cold beer. It’s worth it.

Hawker stall - Mai Kao Beach

Freedom on the Beach

Thailand and I made up. Again.

Dom and I will always, always be backpackers at heart.

Thailand - buddha

We’re super spoilt here for eating out. Honestly, if I wasn’t (as you know) now best friends with the treadmill and the pool I would seriously need to elasticate all my waist bands.

This is the weekend so far…

Friday night. We meet up with some friends at The Trenchard Arms. Now here’s an oddity – an English style pub that manages not to be ridiculous alongside all the street cafes but stands its ground. The craft beers are all brewed in Singapore and apparently you need the ice to dilute the gin in the gin and (dash of) tonic – always a good sign.

Then we fancied a curry (as you do.) Zaffron Kitchen is further down the East Coast Road. It specializes in North and South indian cuisine. Blimey I thought, that’s an entire sub-continent worth of specials! When we sat down the very efficient manager said ‘we don’t do South Indian food.’ So, that solved that one. North indian food here we come. Chicken tikka wrapped in spinach, chana masala and roti bread. No idea if that is a north indian speciality but it was so good. And spicy. So spicy Dom got hiccups and my eyes watered.

Today, in need of a restorative tonic I wandered to my favourite juice bar in Parkway Parade. Slighty revived by a watermelon, apple and ginger juice. Nearly had to put my sunglasses on to approach the counter but got by with just squinting.

juice

Hmmm peckish now and shopping is hard boring work. On the Joo Chiat Road is the best Vietnamese cafe. I ordered a light nibble – these prawns are wrapped with vermicelli noodles, shredded lettuce and centred around a strip of salad onion. You dunk it in a peanutty chilli sauce. God, it’s amazing.

fat angel

Later on, I suggest cooking some supper. Greeted with a general raspberry from well, the whole family, so noodles it is. Off we go to a backstreet noodle cafe. Fei Fei Wanton Noodles. God the kids love it here. It’s been going since Grandad Fei Fei started it in 1949 and it’s still in the family. Wanton Mee is what they do and it’s always packed. 24 hours a day.

millie at fei fei

Oh lordy, I’ve just realised it’s only Saturday! That is half-a-weekend. I am going for a little lie down…

rain

I’m a very polite guest here in Singapore but it is one of those days and as Jane Austen once (kind of) said ‘if you have nothing useful to say, restrict your remarks towards the weather’.

It’s hot and overcast here with thunderstorms in the afternoons. Every day.

It’s true, I find the weather here very challenging.

When I was an English teacher in Japan, about a million years ago, we had to teach the kids these dreadful songs. One was cheerily called ‘The Weather Song’. It wasn’t tricky. One group had to sing ‘How’s the weather?’ and the other group would reply ‘It’s sunny/rainy/cloudy’ – delete as appropriate.

One day, a group of six year olds all sang ‘How’s the weather?’ ‘It’s unchi’ came the reply. I let them sing it over and over (killing time, I wasn’t a good teacher) thinking that it probably meant ‘happy’ or ‘fun’ until the door slid open and my office manager kindly pointed out they were singing:

‘How’s the weather? It’s s-h-i-t.
‘How’s the weather? It’s shiiit
How’s the weather? It’s shiiit, it’s so shiiit today.

This week (and last week), the weather in Singapore is definitely unchi.

temple

Best advice I was ever given; to discover a place you need to get lost in it. I didn’t particularly need this advice because I have raised wandering aimlessly to a new art form.

I recommend it.

Last night we took an accidental left and saw this Hindu temple on a suburban road.

Singapore is not what you think.

The summer holidays are rolling on here as the deadly duo start school at the beginning of August. They are like animals that have come out of hibernation a little bit too soon and have struggled going from the freezing UK to hot, hot Singapore. (As have I). Finding your way around a new place on the hunt for things to do can be a challenge… here are my top four places for lazy mothers of the summer (so far).

Our Pool. Lucky that we are to live in a condo with two pools I can officially record that it takes an eight year old and a six year old exactly one month to utter the words ‘nah, I don’t feel like swimming today’ after swimming twice a day for the past four weeks.

Singapore Art Museum. Free for them (always a bonus) and the kids summer art program was a surprise hit. I think it was the room where you sit on a bed and it spins through the wall taking you into a 3D nightmare that did it.

climbing the beanstalk

Botanic Gardens. Another freebie, wahey! I’m not going to lie I am heading back here the day they start school by myself. I enjoyed it more than they did, but you know, give and take and all that….

black swan1

The Beach. Hhmmm, jury is out. We live near the East Coast – it’s man-made; it shows. The kids ask if they can swim in the sea, ‘not if you have all the vaccinations in the world’ is my reply. The horizon is full of tankers queueing to get in to the harbour and the water is a grungy brown. Singapore, so famous for its draconian approach to gum, does not have the same policy towards dog poop. Kids love it, so there you go.

millie on the beachNed at the beach

treadmill

See this treadmill by the fishpond?  We’re going to be best friends….really… best friends.

;homemade chess

In the UK. When Ned was five and starting school a bossy girl in his class asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up. ‘A Knight’ he said. ‘You can’t be a Knight, my dad said they don’t exist’. Ned came home deflated that night and asked if he could be a knight with a sword. I replied as I always do – be whoever you want to be. ‘But I’m talking about when I’m a grown-up’. You can be a fencing champion, you can be a stunt specialist for sword fighting, be noble and go on an adventure, look for truth and stand up for honour, find yourself a princess, join the Welsh Guards, join a re-enactment society – the list is endless – if you want to be a knight, be a knight. That weekend we went to our local 12th century castle to a medieval weekend. It had a jester, a hog roast, music and knights demonstrating hand-to-hand single combat – a real life knightly sword fight. Ned was transfixed. There were knights in this real world. Afterwards you could visit the tournament tents and see the knights preparing. Spotting a kindred spirit one of the knights waved Ned under the rope and let him hold a sword and talked to him about what it is like to be a knight.
So, imagination repaired, his toy sword collection has grown – we have medieval broadswords, roman swords, pirate cutlasses, Eastern scimitars and oriental samurai swords. We have read King Arthur, Perseus, Jason and the Argonauts, the adventures of Sinbad, Peter Pan and Aladdin.

In Singapore. Making friends is scary when you’re six. Ned takes a few swords and a bow and arrow down to the pool and starts laying siege to the jacuzzi and slowly I watch a few other boys circling him. It takes minutes and they play for hours.

We have a Knight in the family.

swordfighting<

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