Ten Tips for Long Flights

My younger sister is coming to visit me in October and although she travels frequently, this will be the longest flight she has ever taken so she asked me for my advice.  Here are my suggestions for surviving super long flights:

  1. Buy the highest class of seat you can afford.  If you are like me and can only afford economy, choose the most comfortable seat available even if it means you have to pay a fee.  I am a bit claustrophobic so I vividly remember the two flights where I did not have an aisle seat.  
  2. In the old days, airlines provided pillows and blankets for all of their passengers.  These days, economy passengers are lucky to get a seat belt!  Getting as much sleep as possible will help to ward off jet lag and it is a lot easier to sleep when you feel cozy.  If you are travelling to a cold climate, bring a cardigan or an overcoat which you can use as a blanket, on board.  If you are travelling to a warm climate bring a pareo or beach towel either of which will double for a blanket, also bring an inflatable neck pillow.
  3. Drink a lot, preferably water 😉 Not only will this keep you hydrated in the Sahara-like on-board environment but will force you to make several trips to the toilet which leads us to tip number 4.
  4. Move!!  Do those at your seat exercises (see the in-flight magazine) but also get up and walk.  Big airplanes have miles (kilometers) of aisles that you can stroll up and down.  You can easily get your 10,000 steps done, just ask any flight attendant.
  5. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.  You might think your jeans are comfortable until you have had to wear them for more than 24 hours and sleep in them.  Also, metal buttons, zippers, and buckles could set off the security alarms at the airport so choose to wear something that more closely resembles pyjamas.
  6. Bring lip balm and hand lotion/ moisturizer (see tip 3).
  7. Bring a pen (sounds so simple but you’d be surprised how often I have had to lend mine to the person sitting next to me).
  8. View the hours you are forced to spend in airports and on planes as an opportunity to research your destination when you aren’t walking or sleeping.
  9. Bring a book, e-reader, or Ipad.
  10. If you have any food restrictions make sure to pre-order your meals.
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A night out in KL

Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it is often called, is the largest city in Malaysia.  According to Lonely Planet, “The founding of KL was almost an accident. In 1857, 87 Chinese prospectors in search of tin landed at the meeting point of the Klang and Gombak rivers and set up camp, naming the spot Kuala Lumpur, meaning ‘muddy confluence’.”

These days Kuala Lumpur is more famous for the Petronas Twin Towers than it is for the twin muddy rivers.  I have written about my frequent trips from Singapore to KL but this post is about an opportunity I had to share my favourite part of KL with some visiting Canadians.

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We began our evening at Bijan Bar & Restaurant which advertises that they serve “fine Malay cuisine”.  The food, the ambiance, and the service were all great.  This restaurant is located in the trendy Bukit Bintang area so there were plenty of places to choose from for a ‘nightcap’ after we finished our wonderful meal.

Birdwatching in Singapore

When a long-tailed parakeet flew overhead while I was swimming today, I realized that with the exception of the post about being attacked by a crow, I had not written about the birds of Singapore.

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The first time I saw one of these beautiful, bright green birds, I thought someone’s pet must have escaped.  It wasn’t until later that I learned that the long-tailed parakeet is native to South East Asia.  Now, whenever I hear their distinctive call I look up and smile.

For a ‘birder’ visiting Singapore who does not have the time to seek out the many different kinds of birds that live here, I recommend a visit to Jurong Bird Park.  It is the largest bird park in Asia.

Get Outta Town and Leave Your Passport Behind

Visitors to Singapore are sure to include Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Botanic Gardens, and the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel in their itinerary but may miss out on some interesting places that are off the beaten path.  Before the Lion City was famous for its futuristic architecture, it had kampongs and fishermen.

Palau Ubin

Palau Ubin harkens back to what Singapore used to be like.  To get there, you take a bumboat from Changi Village.

St. John's Island

St. John’s Island has a fascinating history.  A ferry from Marina South Pier MRT station will take you there.

Lazarus Island

Lazarus Island is inhabited by monkeys and cats.  You must walk there over the causeway from St. John’s Island or you can take your yacht.

 

West Side Story Reimagined

In keeping with the theme of unusual things to do in Singapore, this post is about what I did last evening.  I am not sure what to call it; it was a film, it was a symphony, it was amazing!

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It is events like this (and like the exhibition that I posted about previously) that blur the line between art and technology; perhaps there isn’t even a line to blur.  According to the program, “Half a century after its original release, West Side Story the motion picture will be presented tonight in a format that brings its own innovations.  MGM has created a restored, high-definition print of the film that reveals details unseen since 1961.  A new sound technology developed by Paris-based Audionamix and utilized by Chace Audio by Deluxe, one of the film industry’s top restoration companies, has isolated vocal tracks from the feature, using new source-separation technology that separates elements within a monophonic soundtrack.”  The Singapore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Joshua Tan, performed the musical score so seamlessly that I often forgot that the music wasn’t part of the film. They deserved every bit of the enthusiastic applause that followed the film’s end credits.

My Bucket List

A friend of mine is travelling in Italy right now.  She posted photos of Cinque Terre on Facebook.  I commented that I was jealous because Italy is still on my bucket list.  It occurred to me that I am either incredibly selfish or pathologically addicted to doing things that are not routine.

I have lived in five countries in three of the seven continents but I am still not satisfied.  I have travelled to dozens of countries and the only continent left for me to set foot on is Antartica, but I am still not content.  What will it take for me to stop travelling and settle down?

My bucket list is not getting shorter.  When I was a child I wanted to go to Greece which I called “the birthplace of civilization” and to Rome which I called “the cradle of civilization”.  A few years later, I had added Egypt to the list because of the Pyramids.  I also decided that I was going to live in Paris but I can’t honestly remember why.  When I did finally start travelling, more places got added to the list than got struck off.  It was a bit like a hamster-wheel.  I was going places but not getting any closer to finding completion.

If you would like me to write about a particular place, just ask.  It is always my pleasure to share the trip.

TripAdvisor Map

 

 

 

A Music Tasting

Being neither a chamber music expert nor a French wine expert, last night’s event was an opportunity to learn a bit about both.  The venue was @Libitum Pte Ltd, Music and Art Studio on East Coast Road.  The wine and the information about it were provided by Guillaume of The French Cellar.  The music was performed by @Libitum Quartet.

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I imagine some of my readers are thinking “isn’t a quartet four musicians?”  but these five very talented people to not all play at the same time.  When a piece called for the flute, Albert Shagimardanov gave up his seat to his father, Zufar.  The musicians from left to right are Zufar Shagimardanov, Elena Shagimardanov, Albert Shagimardanov, Narine Gevorgyan, and Khachatur Khachatryan.

There were four types of wine, each paired with two pieces of music.  Pairing wine with food has become almost commonplace but pairing it with music was a novelty I could not resist.  Here are my impressions:  The first wine was a sparkling wine called Clairette de Die Tradition.  The first piece of music was Polka Pizzicato by Johan Strauss; bubbly and light-hearted, it danced like the bubbles in my glass.  The next piece, also by Strauss was Tales from the Vienna Woods.  At first, the music seemed staid and sombre, so I was afraid it had been mismatched, and that it would be better with a red wine. Soon the music changed and became whimsical and playful.  I was told later that this kind of music was written to be played in the wine houses on the outskirts of Vienna and was meant to emulate the drunkenness of the patrons.

The next wine was Chateau Haut Bessac, a white wine from Bordeaux.  I thought I must have misunderstood because I thought Bordeaux wine is always red, but Guillaume explained that 80% of the wine from that region is red but not all.  I discovered that white wines from the Bordeaux region are very interesting.  Elena invited the audience to close their eyes and imagine they are in a garden.  The quartet played Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D major and suddenly Zufar’s flute filled the garden with birdsong.  It was magical.  The second piece paired with the white wine was a Baroque Quartet by J.S. Fasch.  This time the music was led by the flute and the strings were like gentle breezes blowing through the imaginary garden.

It was time now to start getting serious.  The first red wine was Bastien from the Cotes de Provence. Accompanying this wine were two pieces by A. Piazzolla, Oblivion and Adios Nanino.  The music, like the wine, was intense.  The finale was a red wine from Bordeaux (Orby) and two tangos; one, Chao Paris by Piazzolla, and Pur Una Cabeza by Carlos Gardel, probably the most recognizable tango ever.

For my readers in Singapore, I recommend checking out the @Libitum Facebook page for upcoming events.

A Five Hour Bus Ride

The cheapest way, short of walking or hitching a ride, to get between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is by coach.  Several companies ply this route so choosing which one to use is based largely on how convenient the departure and arrival points are to where you are, and where you want to go.

I used to use a company that departs from a shopping mall 10 minutes on foot from my office. My last trip with my usual bus company ended up taking 8 hours instead of 5.  I did get to see a part of Singapore that I had never seen before and I took some photos while waiting for another bus to arrive so that the passengers could be consolidated.  This is a smart move, business-wise, for the bus company but it made my normal trip intolerably long.

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Unlike long flights on airplanes, there are no meals served, no movies to watch, and no toilets.  That is why I changed bus companies.  It is not as convenient for me to get to the new departure point (I have to take my luggage on the public transit) but at least once I am on the coach it is only 5 hours travelling time to Kuala Lumpur and a meal of nasi lemak and hot coffee were served on board.

Please note – there are sometimes long delays at the border crossings which are beyond the control of the bus companies.

 

Hiking in Virgin Rainforest

Before there were blogs, even before there was email, there were postcards!  My sister found this one in her desk drawer and I want to share it with all of you.  Not only do I love the faces of the mother and baby sloths, but as my sister pointed out, the stamps are cool too!

In case you cannot read my handwriting (and who would blame you?), the postcard states, “Greetings from sunny Costa Rica.  I saw one of these sloths yesterday on a 12 mile hike through dense jungle.  Thank goodness the Indian guide had a machete!  (For the vines – sloths aren’t too dangerous)”

Apparently, I had a sense of humour back in the old days.

Our guide, Mauricio, not only showed us what was on the itinerary for our trek through the Bri Bri Indian reservation he also brought us up to speed on the political situation and took us to his friend’s house in the jungle because he needed to look after the livestock while his friend was in the hospital.  Who knew chickens and ducks will eat bananas?

I only wish I had a photo of the intrepid Andrea, crawling across the fallen tree that served as a bridge, on her hands and knees.

 

p.s. my sister doesn’t live here anymore so it won’t do you any good to visit her hoping to get a glimpse of the original 😉

End of an Era – Last Opening at Ikkan Gallery

Tuesday night, I went to the last opening night of Ikkan Gallery in Singapore. This gallery opened in May 2011 and has shown a staggering array of modern and contemporary artists. This last show features teamLab , a group of techno-artists that I was introduced to by Ikkan Sanada several years ago.  Although it is their last show at Ikkan Gallery, their presence in Singapore will remain as they now have permanent installations at The Arts Science Museum, The National Museum, and Marina Bay Sands.

I am going to miss attending the gallery openings which not only introduced me to art in its many and varied forms but also to art lovers.  The people who attended the openings were as interesting, to me, as the art that they came to appreciate.  I am forever grateful to Ikkan and Miho for inviting me to the openings, and allowing me a peek into a fantastical world.

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