Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back to Shanghai

I'm heading back to Shanghai now. I plan to be there until mid-November this time round. It should be lots of fun.

While I am there, I am planning a big book launch for my new poetry collection Cyborg Chimera. I'll have more info posted here soon about that. I'm really looking forward to the big event.

Sometime after I return to Singapore, probably on a weekend toward the end of November, I'll do a follow-up launch in Singapore as well. Watch here for details of both events.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tekka Market Reopens

I popped in last week at the newly reopened Tekka Market, and really liked what I saw. The revamped place is spacious and clean, and looks like it will be a big improvement over the old place (not to mention the horrible temporary facilities it's been in for the past several months!).

Not all of the stalls were filled up yet, and only about a quarter were opened the day I was there. I don't know how badly the reopening of every stall will affect the ease of moving about in the market, though it will obviously have a big impact. All the same, the place seems very well laid out and put together so as to be quite spacious.

I got a good deal on shark at Tekka Market when I was there. My dogs love it, and the new mix of shark meat, cabbage, and white rice is doing wonders for their skin. The girl has healthier skin and coat than she ever has right now. The shark at Tekka Market was just what the doctor ordered (literally), and I managed to pick up 2 sharks (about 6 kg total) for under $40. That's enough to last my dogs several months, so it's pretty much a steal. (Certainly less than what dry dog food was costing.)

The only knock on the renovated Tekka Market is the parking. I had to park on the road when I was there, as the carpark seemed to be closed (though I later saw some cars driving out, so I'm not sure there). When the multi-storey carepark is fully functional, this problem should be solved. I am impressed with the renovations. It looks like the facelift has done wonders for the place.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

We Did It!

We did it! The round-island cycling trip I've been wanting to do, and it was great!

We did 92 km in 7 hours (5 hours on the bike, plus 2 hours for rests), and we went through these estates:

Woodlands - Sembawang - Yishun - Seletar Air Base - Seng Kang - Hougang - Tampines - Simei - Bedok - Geylang - Bugis - Chinatown - Outram Park - Tiong Bahru - Telok Blangah - past Sentosa and all the way down West Coast Highway - Clementi - Jurong East - Boon Lay - Bukit Batok - Choa Chu Kang - Kranji - Woodlands

It was a hot day, but we managed with taking lots of water and salty snacks. We had divided the trip into 4 legs (Woodlands - Tampines, Tampines - Chinatown, Chinatown - Jurong, and Jurong - Woodlands). We figured roughly 2 hours per leg, but managed all of them more quickly than that. This was partly due to some roads that have been newly opened in some areas I have not cycled in some time, and partly just because we kept a better pace than I expected.

It was a great day, and I am glad we did it.

Watch for pictures here soon!

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Sonoran Sun, Mexico - Beach Rentals

The beach rentals at sonoran sun in Mexico look so inviting! The waters are clear, the resort is in a spot that is just quiet and solitary enough, and the accommodations look top-notch. It makes me want to hop on a plane today and head that direction.

If I were free to do so at the moment, I think the puerto penasco condos look like a perfect spot to spend a holiday. I would love the beach and the multi-tiered swimming pool. I think you'd find me in one spot or the other as long as it was daylight, were I there at the moment. (I have to admit, I'd be more likely to be in the water than in the well- equipped gym at the resort, though the gym would do me some good, I'm sure!) I would love a long cycling expedition along the coast as well. There are some amazing views of the sea from puerto penasco sonora mexico, making it an ideal spot for a nice, relaxing holiday.

In the evening, the resort has plenty of entertainment to offer as well, with excellent dining and bar facilities. I'd probably still spend a good deal of time out on the beach at night, on my dream vacation to Mexico. I'd be most likely to sit out by the beach under the moon, watching its reflection play over the face of the sea. I would undoubtedly have a book, a pen, and some blank paper. It would be a good kick-start for some writing that I need to be doing, to spend a couple of weeks in a Sonoran Sun beach rental in Mexico.

Unfortunately, it isn't holiday time for me at the moment. I am having to live out Puerto Penasco in my dreams for the time being. All the same, you can be sure you'll find me there often!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm Finally Going to Do it

For a long time, I've been wanting to do a round-island cycling trip in Singapore, but I didn't quite feel it safe to go alone. I've got a friend in town now who is willing to give it a go with me, and if all goes as planned, we'll set out for it today. It should end up being about 150-180 km, if I've calculated correctly. Our plan is to allow for 2 days, but if we hit the halfway point and feel we can finish in a day, we will continue.

I'm really excited about the whole program, having wanted to do it for several years. In fact, it is one of the things I have on my list to complete before I turn 40. If all goes as planned, I should be able to strike it off the list this week.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

What Day is Today?

I was very pleased to attend the performance of What Day is Today? at the Esplanade earlier this week. I was not quite sure what to expect, and so was pleased to find it one of the best shows I attended in Singapore this summer (and I saw quite a number.)

What Day is Today?, with its innovative narrative structure, is a mix of music, speculation, oration, and very profound thought. I loved the way the neighbors of the protagonist were incorporated into the show, but not highlighted in any way. I thought the use of sound — whether voice, instrumentation, or whatever — was amazing. Bani Haykal impressed greatly with his performance.

It was not a huge crowd there, being the end of a holiday weekend with everyone getting geared up to go back to the office, but a good percentage of those who did show up also stayed back for the Q&A. It was one of the better Q&A sessions I've attedned too, reflecting a good engagement with the performance on the audience's part.

I'll be keeping an eye on the work of this crew (B-Quartet) in upcoming months and years. They were good, and quite worth watching.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I've Been Stung by a Jellyfish!!!

Getting stung by a jellyfish when you are out enjoying a day in the sea can be quite frustrating and very painful, even if it is not one of those of the more dangerous variety. (In which case, it can be deadly!) I've been stung by a jellyfish once and sea urchins twice. It is not fun.

On the recent trip to Pulau Sibu, one of my friends got stung by a jellyfish. It got her on the top of her right foot and along the inner part of the left thigh just above the knee. Ouch!

So what do you do when stung by a jellyfish? Of course, there is the remedy that was aired on an episode of Friends, but that isn't the only way to take care of it. Here's some things that I've learned. (All of these are effective for sea urchin stings too, though you have to take an extra step there to make sure the spine doesn't remain intact under the skin.)

• salt water is effective for killing some of the poison in the jellyfish sting, so stay in the sea

• lime juice likewise kills the poisons, so get some limes and squeeze as much juice as you can onto the affected areas

• vinegar has the same effect, so drench the skin in as much of it as you can take

• commercial allergy medication can help reduce the body's reaction to the jellyfish sting

The lime juice and/or vinegar treatments are pretty easy to do in most areas in Malaysia and Thailand where I have been snorkeling, as these items are readily available. One thing to keep in mind with both options is that it can really hurt whne you put the juice onto the affected area. But the sting of it is worth the relief it will bring, and it is the only way to ensure you've killed the poison in the affected areas. If you don't apply (at least) one of these treatments, I've heard that the poison can continue to spread and do its work, making the whole ordeal even more miserable than it already is.

The best, of course, is to avoid jellyfish and sea urchins altogether, but that is not always possible. (Easier with sea urchins, but even then... it can happen.) If you do get stung, don't panic. These home remedies can be quite effective, if you aren't dealing with the really dangerous varieties of jellyfish. And for those cases, don't wait — get to a doctor immediately.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Getting Your Own Boat for the Day

The best way to really enjoy a snorkeling trip is to have a boat that takes just your own group. This way, you can decide where you want to go, how long you want to stay, and all those sorts of things. The best experience I've had of this variety was probably when a group of 8-10 of us had our own boat to go around Perhentian. We saw a huge parrot fish that day (about a meter and a half long), loads of huge clams, and, best of all, a giant sea turtle. The turtle was in deep waters, and with our own boat, we were able to stop out there and get really close to it. Five of us even got down and swam with him for some distance.

We had our own boat for our day of snorkeling in Pulau Sibu recently too, and had lots of fun with that. It worked out well for us, as we had little ones with us and wanted to be able to decide when to come back based on their needs.

If you want to get a boat for your own group at Pulau Sibu, you can book it from the Tanjong Leman ferry terminal. You have to bypass the main window, though, and go over the the small shops behind it that sell snacks and so forth. In some of those shops, you'll find name cards for boat operators who can get you started.

Having your own boat for the day is definitely the way to go, so it's worth the extra leg work to get it arranged. The operators are all friendly and helpful, and I've never run into any who weren't ready to do what was needed to make the trip a fun one.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Snorkeling in Sibu Island, Malaysia

Sibu Island is not a bad place for snorkeling, and was especially fun for the first-timers who were with us. I have been snorkeling quite often, though, and didn't find the marine life in the area to be especially diverse, though it was quite easy to see the normal types of fish you will see in the region. We saw plenty of clown fish in the coral (like Nemo), and some parrot fish, angel fish, and other varieties that you'll often see in the waters around the islands off of Malaysia's east coast. We didn't see any of the really exotic things, but then, we had some members in the group who weren't up to going in deeper waters, so all of our snorkeling was along the coast. That is one really good thing about the location — you don't have to take inexperienced (or young) swimmers into deep waters to see lots of activity. In our group that included very small kids, this was a big plus.

The down side of Sibu is the jelly fish that often pass through the waters there. One of our group members got stung, and I've read reports from other visitors to the area saying that they met with the same problem. It is certainly something to be aware of.

The big draw to us for Sibu Island is that we could stay on the mainland rather than the island itself. If that is a high priority for you too, then I think that Sibu is a good spot for a day trip with the snorkel. If you are looking for more, though, and don't mind whatever accommodations you can find on one of the bigger islands, then snorkeling in Redang and Perhentian, way up north, is much better. Of the southern islands I've visited, Tioman has better snorkeling, but gets very crowded.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Holiday Cottages

Finding perfect holiday cottages sounds like a daunting task. We all know the feeling of sitting down in front of the computer and looking at website after website, trying to judge from the information and pictures presented to us on each page which will be the best for the planned holiday. The Owners Direct website helps make the whole process a whole lot easier.

Apartments and Villas for the Self-Catered Holiday

At Owners Direct, you get to look through listings for all sorts of holiday villas and apartments. When you choose a spot where you would like to stay during your holiday, you then book it directly from the owner. To me, that's one of the greatest features of this site. They provide the listings, but you do your booking with the owner rather than through a third party that might mix up the details of your booking.

There are plenty of holiday villas and apartments in locations all over the world available for booking through Owners Direct too. You can find all sorts of accommodations, and choose the one that best suits your needs. That will help you get started on the ideal self-catered holiday. (And self-catered is always the best, I think!)

Let's look through some samples of what is available at Owners Direct.

Accommodations in Devon, England

Let's say your looking for a list of Devon cottages to choose from before starting out on your holiday. If you were to visit the listings at Owners Direct, you'd find links to special offers, new properties, accommodations suitable for bigger groups, and then links to sites separated out by the number of bedrooms. That helps you narrow down what you are looking for already. But the site offers you further alternatives in your search, if you prefer, by offering links to accommodations divided up by areas in Devon too. So, whether you want to search by size of the flat or by geographical division, it's all laid out nice and easy there.

Or maybe Scotland?

Perhaps Devon is not on the agenda for you this year, and you'd prefer to search through the cottages Scotland section of the site. The first thing you'll find there is a page divided up by region, with links to cottage size below each region's name. That's a very convenient, easy way to conduct your search. And the deals at the site can be pretty good too. In poking around over there, I've found deals on 1 bedrooms in the £300 range, and on units as big as 5 bedrooms for roughly £800. Those prices look pretty good to me. And, when you use the site, you deal directly with the owner, which is a big perk.

If you're looking for good accommodations in locations worldwide, Owners Direct is a great place to start.
And do enjoy your holiday!