Saturday, June 23, 2012

Starbucks with the gang

Ran into my buddy, Milo
Whoa, didn't see that comin'!
Ralph, what's that on your face?
Cooling under the fans
Another walk to Starbucks along East Coast Park, this time, with my buddy, Ralph and his human, Louise.  And along the way, we ran into Milo and his human, Kath.  It's been hot here, you know, summer in the tropics, but fortunately, we've gotten in the habit of having a good dunk in the ocean before heading home.  Then we had a nice roll or two in the grass, where Ralph picked up some extra facial fur, I think...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Still in Singapore!

Well, while the humans are galavanting all over Asia, I'm stuck here in Singapore, but I guess it isn't that bad.  If I went with them, who knows how long I'd be in quarantine every time I came back!  So, here I am, hanging out in Katong Park, occasional walks to Starbucks through East Coast Park, and then coming up will be another dog hash!  This is a video of a buddy, Jack, and me in the dog run in Katong Park - next to where we live.  Can't imagine how he feels with all that fur, but he seems to be ok.... I think he's posing....

Friday, June 15, 2012

Amongst the Singapore Shophouses

Yesterday, my buddy, Louise, and I took a bus to the Joo Chiat neighborhood, which is a bit Northeast of where we live in the East Coast area of Singapore.  This an older area that has for the most part escaped the wrecking ball, so many of the colorful old shophouses of Singapore remain.  It's known for being a bastion of Peranakan (original Straits people), as well as Malay cultures, and has a number of fun shops and restaurants.  We passed an old Malay village being renovated, bought a couple of treasures in the Changi Junk Store and picked up some nutmeg oil from a Malaysian pharmacy - it's supposed to be good for aches and pains.  And, of course, we brought our cameras...

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Sky bar at Marina Bay Sands

After over a year of living in Singapore, we finally made it to the rooftop of Marina Bay Sands.  A former colleague of Chris' was in town on business and was staying there, so we mooched off his guest privileges and hitched a ride up to the Sky bar, for guests and friends of guests only.  I can imagine that Ku De Ta is a very hip bar, on the other side of the Skypark, but it seemed to be packed compared to the Sky.  And the views were spectacular (so was the price of a glass of wine).

Changi Village Seafood

Back in Singapore last weekend, we rented a car, mostly to take Lucy to the Dog Hash, but also to enjoy other places in Singapore that are hard to get to with or without a dog.  We wanted to check out Changi Village which is located North of Changi Airport, on the Northeastern coast.  This is definitely a popular place on the weekend, and filled with great places to eat.  As we walked around the hawker stands, I became a bit concerned, as we saw no other dogs, just stray cats.  But then at the end of a row of stands, near the ocean, we spotted Changi Village Seafood, a restaurant that was very well attended, and with tables near a garden where we could discreetly sit with Lucy.  As it turned out, the owner was a dog owner, and was happy to seat all three of us.  We had probably the best hawker food I've tasted - bbq'd sting ray, a special homemade tofu dish, kailan with oyster sauce and two ice-cold Tiger beers.  This could be a monthly stop for us!  The only challenge was keeping Lucy on a short leash as protection for the cats.  Lucy doesn't like cats....

Tranquility and great food in Bentota, Sri Lanka

Our bungalow
During our last leg of the Sri Lanka trip, we spent two lovely days at Dalmanuta Gardens, an ayurvedic spa in Bentota, which is a beach town on the West coast, about an hour South of Colombo.  Bentota had the feeling of a typical beach town/ fishing village, with the Bentota River feeding into the ocean there - alongside the river was where the spa was located.  We all kind of did our own thing during the layover day - rode a tuk tuk into town, took the inn's boat to the beach, swam in the pool.  The inn's restaurant was wonderful, headed by local chef, Athula Kerthi, who specialized in local fish and vegetable dishes.  Since it was off-season, he had time to show me how to prepare Sri Lankan curries that he was fixing for lunch.  What a treat - didn't really do anything hands-on, but I wrote it all down!  And then we ate it! The challenge will be to find a vegetable in the US that will substitute for snake gourd....  Chris and I took the inn's boat down the river for about an hour, to check out the wildlife, mangroves and local culture.  That evening we had our locally-caught dinner, prepared by Athula, on a small gazebo on stilts over the river - great food, good friends, awesome ambiance.
Our dinner table on the river
Athula Kerthi, head chef

Spices that go into the curry!
On the river

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Angry mom in Udawalawe

Here is Chris' video from Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka, where he captured a mother elephant's anger at us, as we entered her territory in a safari vehicle.  She trumpeted a few times, and then continued to toss dirt on her back, which was an indication that she was less than pleased.  You can see the three babies whom she was protecting, and another adult who also got into the act.  A tense, yet exciting moment....

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Elephants of Udawalawe

It's hard to express the impact these huge, gentle creatures had on us ..... but at least I can talk about the events.  Udawalawe National Park is about 120 square kilometers in size, not that big as national parks go in Sri Lanka, but it is the home to about 550 elephants - so we were drawn to it.  There were also many water buffalo, spotted deer, mongoose, peacocks, monkeys, a handful of elusive leopards and many, many extraordinary birds.  We booked two nights with a company called Mahoora, in one of their "premium" (not "luxury") camps, which was dee-vine.  (Can't imagine what the luxury camps were like!)  We stayed in a lovely, private camp by a river, sleeping in large tents with cots (I felt like Isak Dinesen), dining under the stars at a table with linens and having cocktails and tea waiting for us after the game drives.  We were accompanied on the drives by a naturalist and a government tracker (for safety).  It was blissful to hang out with the elephants as we found them mostly grazing in small and large groups - and because we were in a vehicle, we were able to get very close (the close up photo was not taken with a zoom lense....).  We did have one incident when a female elephant, protective of three babies, was clearly upset at our presence.  I will post that separately with a video that Chris took of the event, but a picture of this angry adult is included below.  Overall, the two days at Udawalawe were among those rare holiday times where I really hated it to end.... really.
Angry mom

Nuwara Eliya

We left Negombo on Friday and headed East, for the interior of Sri Lanka, which rises in elevation by a few thousand feet, providing the perfect climate for their famous Ceylon tea.  In the town of Nuwara Eliya, we rented a bungalow for a couple of nights that was surrounded by beautiful, verdant tea fields and that was run by a couple who cooked breakfast and dinner for us - love the Sri Lankan rice and curries!  We hiked through the tea fields into town, past houses, lounging water buffaloes, vegetable stands, saying hello to families out doing chores (a smile speaks volumes even if one doesn't know the local language).  This hike caused the breaking point for one of my Keen sandals that has seen many miles for the past 5 or 6 years, so when we got to town, I found a cobbler outside of a shop who expertly stitched it up.  I'm sure it will last another 5 years!  At the end of the day, we returned to the bungalow, where a pot of milk tea was waiting for us.  By this point, we all realized that we were lucky enough to visit SL during the off-season, as we saw very few other visitors until we returned to Colombo.
Gathering wood

Our bungalow
Fixing my sandal


This is the first of several posts about Sri Lanka where we traveled last week (can't believe I was in an ayurvedic spa a week ago!).  This trip cannot be contained in one post, as our itinerary included several very different, awesome places that I've got to blab about!  We first went to Negombo, which was a convenient stopover, as it is a beach and fishing community, just an hour from the airport in Colombo.  Since we arrived very early in the morning on a Thursday, we waited until Friday before taking off for the tea country.  So, we enjoyed a combination of hanging out in the pool of the hotel (Jet Wing Beach), walking around town and checking out the local batik workshop.  This was a great place to serve as an introduction to our adventure - friendly people, relaxing beach atmosphere in a real non-touristy community.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jammin' in the Hutong!

During our last day in Beijing, Chris and I strolled around one of the hutong areas.  These are really funky and interesting neighborhoods, where many streets and alleys have not changed in decades.  We happened upon an impromptu performance by a group of older Chinese gentlemen, playing instruments and singing a song that they probably had known for years - it was a magical moment that Chris captured with his cigarette-pack-sized flip movie camera.  And they kept on playing!