Back to Singapore

5 April, 2008 by

Today we finished up our time in Melaka. We reversed the 4.5 hour bus ride back to Singapore for a couple of days of sight-seeing. Charlotte really has been doing well with all of this travelling. Sometimes she does get on our nerves, but that is probably partially from her four teeth that are coming in.

Once back in Singapore, we jumped on the MRT and arrived near our hotel which was a short walk away. That evening we decided to try a nearby French restaurant. A French businessman decided that he had gone long enough without a good no frills French restaurant. So he started the French Stall. The end result is a lovely side walk restaurant that reminds of the cafes in Paris. We had the Fondue Bourgogne, escargot, a bottle of French wine (so hard to get in California), tiramisu and a giant profiterole. Tending the fondue was hot work. Charlotte supervised while gnawing on a carrot.

French Stall

Shopping?!

4 April, 2008 by

Our final full day started with us retracing some of our steps to see a couple of various shops in Chinatown. The main point of interest was at a shop of a man who makes beaded shoes. He has been involved with this craft since the age of four, when he would sort beads for his parents. He first strings together an intricate pattern of beads, a process that takes up to three weeks. He then attaches the mesh of tiny beads onto the strap of a pair of sandals. Rachel actually purchased a pair, which is very surprising if you know her and how much she enjoys (or does not enjoy 😉 ) shopping.

We then continued on to Little India for a spot of lunch. On our way we passed a sari shop that had a few dresses for little girls at Rachel’s insistence we went inside and found a beautiful little burgundy and gold dress and top for Charlotte. At this point, Brian was wondering who this woman was and where his wife who did not like shopping had gone to. The next shop had some postcards that Rachel picked up (which is a bit more normal for her).

Dinner was in the Portuguese sector of the city a few kilometers outside of city center. On arriving Brian realized that he did not have enough cash to cover dinner. That was quickly worked out when our cook pointed out that she was also the cook at our guest house and we could pay her the next morning at breakfast. We feasted on crab smothered in chilies and fiery devil curry.

On our taxi ride back to our guest house, the taxi driver told us that tonight was the weekly performance of a man who shoves his hand into a coconut. He then pours a miracle healing oil on his hand to heal it. We happened to get back in time to see this performance. Rachel did not buy any miracle healing oil. 🙂

Melaka Day

3 April, 2008 by

Today was our first full day in Melaka. We started with a walking tour of the city. The first few spots of the tour had not yet opened, so we ducked into a drinks shop where Rachel had a vivid purple dragon fruit smoothie and Brian had a Durian milkshake. Brian is now able to identify Durian by smell any time it is nearby!

Dragon Fruit Smoothie

We resumed our tour and saw many Chinese temples and Peranakan houses until we had just about melted from the heat. Off to an air conditioned restaurant and back to our room for a bit! In the evening we checked out the newest mall in Melaka. It was quite a contrast to see a mostly western style mall after spending most of our time in Chinatown where things just seemed a little slower and carried on the way the always had.

The trishaws are something else to see.  A trishaw is like a large tricycle with a bench seat in back for some passengers.  The trishaws in Melaka are decorated in fake flowers and banners, have horns and car alarms and many other things to set them apart and make you want to ride them.  We never rode on one, partially because we prefer to walk whenever possible, but the streets were very narrow and did not lend themselves to pedestrian traffic.

Straits and Heat

2 April, 2008 by

Today we bidded adieu to our ill-fated stay in Singapore and turned our sights to Melaka, Malaysia. Melaka occupies a waterway location on the west coast that made it desirable for the Dutch, Portuguese, English and Japanese. Chinese and Indian men came to this area and married the Malay women. Their children identified themselves as “Straits Chinese” or “Straits Indian” in reference to the strait of Melaka.

We boarded a bus in Singapore for the 4 1/2 hour ride. After stopping for lunch we took a taxi to our guest house, which was run by a Malay man and his British wife. This meant that we were able to get a proper cup of tea.

We walked about a bit in the evening and quickly discovered that this was the most humid spot so far on our trip. For dinner we walked across the river and into Little India to a restaurant called Capital Satay. This restaurant served satay celup, satay sticks loaded with raw meat and veg that you cook by plunging the sticks into boiling satay sauce. We could not identify all of the things that we ate tonight and are happy to keep it that way. Charlotte has continued to be the star of the show and was doted on by all of the servers who came from a local orphanage.

Capital Satay

Fluffy Buns and Hard Fruit

1 April, 2008 by

We wrapped up our time in Hong Kong today.  On our way out we stopped at a mall to satisfy our Dim Sum cravings.  The restaurant at the bottom floor was fairly large and very busy.  We got a shared table and were given our menu, specials menu, order slip and tally sheet.  The menu had English on it but no pictures to help you figure out what you might be ordering.  The specials menu had pictures but no English text.  A combination of pointing at pictures and a nice neighbor helped us figure out which items to tick.  We have a feeling that the waitresses and other people at the table were making fun of us until Charlotte woke up and started sampling the rice dough exterior of some of the dim sum.  Then we were the hit of the restaurant.

We made it to our flight and arrived in the afternoon in Singapore.  The nice lady at the information desk told us that it would be too difficult to use the subway and we should either get a taxi or the airport shuttle to get to our hotel.  Not liking that answer we found the subway in the next terminal and paid one fifth the price to ride to near our hotel.  Then things went downhill.  Our hotel room was nice and large but a bit run down and the AC did not work, which is not good in the extreme humidity of Singapore.  Our next room had been recently refurbished but not everything had been reinstalled just yet.  We were also given a plate of fruit in our first room which we took with us to the second room.  Now we are not saying the fruit was hard, but we could have stopped an intruder with the pear.

Dinner was at another nice restaurant that was the “Best Restaurant of 2005.”  They must have felt that they had fallen a little when their only customers that night were a group of guys who got a cheese plate and a young couple that requested some steamed sweet potato for their 10 month old girl.  The lovely, blond 10 month old girl, who shall remain nameless, proceeded to help redecorate the table and floor.

Happy Anniversary

31 March, 2008 by

Today is our seventh anniversary. After waking up from our big sleep, we had breakfast and started out on our day. We saw several parts of Hong Kong island, but the highlight was The Peak aka Victoria Peak, the highest mountain in Hong Kong. The tram up the mountain goes straight up the side at a rather steep angle. When we reached the top and made it outside of the tourist trap, we were in a nice little mountain village shrouded in mist and surrounded by lush green growth, which made the walks fun. Unfortunately the mountain was so shrouded in mist that we could not see anything below. We had lunch in a nice restaurant with glass walls that maximized our view of the mist. By the end of lunch we could just make out some of the nearest skyscrapers.

View from the Peak

The rest of the day was taken up with seeing the excessive shops of Causeway Bay, having tea in a greasy spoon in Wan Chai and meandering our way back to our hotel through a night market.

Oh, and Charlotte started standing unaided today. It is quite fun watching her stand up, waiver for a few seconds and plop back down.

Long Flights

30 March, 2008 by

are no fun. Cramped quarters for 15 hours make for difficult times, especially with a 10 month old. On the other hand, the mere fact that we can cross the Pacific ocean in less than a day is amazing in itself. All three of us did manage to sleep the most that we ever have on a flight. We got in at five in the morning Hong Kong time and made it to our hotel. After checking in to our room, we showered and made it to a nearby church service (It’s fun to pray at the YMCA).  After that, we made it back to our hotel and started to make plans for the evening, but we started to slow down until we just stopped in the early afternoon. The next thing we knew it was morning.

Where in the world is…

28 March, 2008 by

…the Criswell family? Brian is settling into his new workplace, and Rachel finished up her work with the fire relief projects and is now spending some time focused on Charlotte. We are about to set off on our next trip to south-east Asia.

Disaster, Disaster Everywhere…

23 October, 2007 by

As many of you know, our departure from Oxford at the end of July happened to be during some of the worst flooding the area has seen in a century. Today, 85 days after our personal effects were packed into a shipping container they were delivered back to us; a delievery that took place in the midst of a disaster at the other end of nature’s spectrum, wild fires.

Presently, there are two fires eluding the control of fire fighters that are both approximately 5 miles from our home. As with flooding, fires are a very localised kind of disaster, so 5 miles can make a huge difference as to whether or not you are directly effected. In our case, it is highly unlikely that a fire will actually make it to our apartment. Unlike flooding, however, fires have a nasty way of making themselves known. Significant quantities of ash are being released into the atmosphere and blown our way (I’ve had to brush the lap top off twice to clear off fine soot). It also smells disgusting and makes breathing difficult. As county transportation and businesses are significantly disrupted by all of the events, Brian was not required to be at work today nor tomorrow.

Ergo, right was we should be composing a jubilant, ‘We made it email’, we are instead catapulting down the freeway away from our earthly possessions to spend a day or two with Rachel’s parents in Los Angeles county. Ironic? We think so.

GCA Stop 6: Bay of Fundy

18 August, 2007 by

Ok, in the quick update we put on our blog earlier this week we said that stop 6 was Bay of Fundy and St John.  We’re going to have to amend that to just Bay of Fundy.  We’re staying in the national park here, about 1 mile from some of the highest tides in the world (they’ve been measured previously at the equivalent of 4 stories high).  When we drove into the park last night the beauty and the slower pace of nature had a lulling effect.  As a result, we did not do the 3 hr round trip necessary to see the capitol of this province.  Instead we’ve just kicked back and enjoyed nature.  A bit of hiking, a bit of time on the sea shore watching the waves, skipping rocks, etc. and we’re feeling really refreshed.  (One unusual thing: the cove we visited doesn’t smell like salt water, so you feel more like you’re on a lake than the ocean.)

We’re staying at the Fundy Highland Inn, where we have our own kitchenette for the first time in a while.  As a result we’ve gotten to cook up some local food (obligatory cod and beet tops to name just a few).

 One fairly random thing.  We’ve always thought of Canada as having really good drinking water.  Not so either here in the park, or where we were on Baie du Chaleur the last few days.  Up at the Bay, we were staying so close to the water that they have salt water corruption in their aquifer and therefore have to use cooler water for drinking.  Here, there isn’t so much of a problem with salt water, but the iron content is sooo high in the water that it dyes everything yellow/brown.  (Yes, the toilet bowl and shower are gorgeous  : >