Sunday, January 29, 2012

To the Beach!

Yesterday morning was beautiful, so we called our friendly large-van taxi driver and headed over to Sentosa.  Lucy launched out of the van, as usual, and buried her face in the sand, hence the different look.  She had a blast, as usual.  Then we were dropped off at our neighborhood Starbucks, where we found a herd of stuffed buddies at a nearby pre-school - think Lucy liked hanging out with them - no ball-stealing... no humping.....  life is good.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lunar New Year launches in Singapore

Dragon looking over Chinatown in Singapore
Wow!  have we ever learned a lot about this celebration!  Gong Xi Fa Cai!  A Happy and Prosperous Year of the Water Dragon!  The dragon is the only animal of the twelve animal signs in Chinese culture that is mythical.  Add to this that Chinese New Year, known in Asia as Lunar New Year or the two week long Spring Festival, also marks the event causing the largest human migration on earth , and you’ve picked up just a few things we’ve learned about Chinese New Year! 

Flowers, Laterns and Food!

What We’ve Learned: First, this is a special time for families of Chinese origin.  This is a time when they all work hard to get home to be with their families.  From all over Asia and the world – they go home to their town of origins and celebrate with their families.  The airlines even raise prices!   New clothes to signify the new year, red colors for luck, all manner of special foods and food that are auspicious for the year ahead.  The cities clear out, stores close because the workers go to their families and families are together for a great dinner and celebration.  The youngest in the family is meant to travel to the oldest, all across the fourteen days of the Spring Festival beginning with the new moon on January 23 and running to the full moon on February 8!  After the dinners, the celebrations!
Head of a Massive Lighted Dragon on New Bridge Road

The Dragon is one of twelve symbols, each symbol has five elements: wood, fire, metal, earth, and water.  And each year the symbol is either a Yin year or a Yang year. This year is a Yang Water Dragon. Water erodes stability so many are predicting that this will be a year of floods, earthquakes and turmoil.  But water brings life too and many others are predicting growth, and life!

...and the rest of her.  With Ricky and Christy

 The last time there was a Yan Water Dragon was 1952 – sixty years ago. The Japanese have a term for this, Kanreki, and when someone returns to the symbol of their birth after sixty years – they return to their birth itself and have a new beginning.  The Dragon is one of the strongest signs – all the signs are  good – and the dragon is one that is desired because of mythical leadership, intellect, and intelligence.  In Western cultures, dragons are feared – in Eastern cultures, they are good and revered.  Many births are even planned for dragon years – and planned for conception and birth in the dragon year (the head and the tail)!
Laterns Lighted

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Heard it Through the Grapevine - in Hong Kong

A repost from Chris' Facebook page.  December 21, 2011 from Hong Kong
four days until Christmas - Hong Kong. I just had one of those moments… A customer dinner was a OK but at a great location at the near Causeway Bay. 41st Floor with Killer Views of Victoria Harbour. Both Hong Kong and Kowloon were all decked out for Christmas. Hugely. Ten story tall Santa lights and an eighty story building with 2012 out vertically. You may know how it works here. There were fireworks over Macau that you could see from up there. We had a dinner mixed up some sour business talk with great chat about Asia, China and Hong Kong. I was the third wheel with two guys who thought HK was the center of the universe. and took some hits about the US that I take more of these days. After dinner, I took a taxi back to my hotel in Wan Chai and my cab was an old Hong Kong beater with an even older old Hong Kong guy as the driver. I mean old Hong Kong. Like the Dim Sum guy in the "Fifth Element" old Hong Kong. Not a lick of English, 100% Cantonese and the doorman had to tell him where I was going cause he couldn’t understand me. (It was the Grand Hyatt - a monster hotel here) This guy hit the gas hard and we careened from the taxi queue. It felt like two wheels - i don't know. Next came a CD playing Creedence Clearwater Revival at top volume - "I Heard It Through The Grapevine". Top volume CCR, Top speed, Causeway Bay to Wan Chai at a sreamin pace. Lights and street walkers and other taxi's flashing buy. I then heard what I thought was some screeching off the CD – typical sounds from a pirated CD I thought– but no… it was the old skinny guy singing along in rocker English – “Ooo, Bet you're wond'ring how I knew, 'bout your plans to make me blue, with some other guy that you knew before? …..” I just sat back, put a huge smile on my face, and grooved along. “I heard it through the grapevine, not much longer would you be mine. Ooo, I heard it through the grapevine, and I'm just about to lose my mind. Honey, honey yeah.” I lapsed into a little bit of Bladerunner while I was at it....

I pulled up to the Hyatt, paid my HK$32 and told the bellman that the next passengers were in for a treat! He had no idea what I was talking about. Merry Christmas! Ho Ho Hu Jintao!
See More
— in Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Skiing Japanese-style

From Chris:    Nice to take some turns at Mt. Naebo - a ski area in northwestern Japan.  This place sits inland of the north coast with nothing but the East China Sea separating it from Sibera.  Cold winds sweeping across the sea + mountains = a boatload of snow. Much like Tahoe geologically with a constant flow of cold air and moisture barrelling in. They aleady have a 250 cm base - about 100" depth.  About 2500' base level elevation; 4500' at the top.  
Lost in Translation
At least this part of Japan has not put the  ski area + real estate thing together.  The lodging was like a seventies style US ski lodge - really small rooms, few ameneties, marginal food. Cell Block living! The mountain had two detachable quads and one gondola.  The quads were kinda short - easy to ski faster than the lift time.  Utah style grooming.  and, at least on Thursday - no lift lines!  This place was almost 75% snow boarders by my rough count and most of the snowboarders were women, well, girls! I was really interested in what the on -mountain food scene was like.  You know, beef stew in the Northeast resorts and Chili in the west resorts are the staples.  Sure 'nuff: Curry Rice and Nori!

From the top - 9 F with wind!
Wall of Sake at the train station
Nice way of getting there too.  Take the bullet train from Tokyo and ninety minutes later you are there.  Perfect replacement for I-70 in Colorado.  There is a short stuttle from the train station to the base.  The highway crews have constructed these massive steel structures to keep the avalanches up hill from the roads.  These things look like skyscraper superstructures laying at 45 degree angles jammed into the earth.   I had about 20 minutes at the station on the return poking around a bit and found this liquor store...  the entire place was filled with sake.  holy cow. I'm becoming a fan.....
Shinkansen Bullet Train arriving at the station
View from the Shinkansen leaving the station
A few days in Tokyo in the forties F and this place in the low teens F a nice break from 84F - 91F day in and day out in Singapore...  but, always WONDERFUL getting back to Ricky and the pooch!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cooking class - Thai

 Went to a cooking class last week, and it was big fun!  This is part of a series of classes taught by a Singaporean (originally from Western India) in her "suburban" home, not too far from where we live.  The proximity was the draw for me, but later I learned that she's been recommended by Lonely Planet and a number of other sources.  Her typical clients are Western tourists - some of them come to her house fresh from the airport (well, probably not fresh) with bags in hand.  The day I attended, there were just 3 students, all short-timers in Singapore.  So this day was Thai cooking - Khao Phat Krachup (Water Chestnut Fried Rice), Bpiah Pow (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaf), and Mango Salad, with green unripe mangos.  The Asian ingredients were a revelation - I had never sampled a fresh water chestnut before, or an unripe mango.  The chestnut was delicious and a little sweet;  the mango was sour and tart.  We also used tiny dried prawns for flavoring and chile padi, tiny red chiles that are hotter than jalapenos.  So, we all prepared the food as a team in Ruqxana's outdoor kitchen, and then sat down and inhaled the result for lunch. Will be checking out future classes in Indian, Singaporean and Vietnamese cooking!


Back in the condo with mangos, prawns and water chestnuts

Happy New Year!

Happy Western New Year (?), that is.... Chinese New Year is approaching on January 23....  Contrary to our normal routine for New Years Eve, as in, watch the ball drop in NYC and then turn in, we actually went out to view the fireworks here.  A group of us rode bikes to a park across the river from downtown Singapore, and enjoyed a spectacular view of the show, with the lights framed by the large ferris wheel and Marina Bay Sands, that dominate the skyline.  We heard that the fireworks display for Chinese New Year will be much longer.... stay tuned!