Tag Archives: Expat life

No rest for the Noodle: Orangutans, families and German philosophers

1 Jun

Whizz, whizz, whizz and the last couple of months have flown by in a blur of all sorts of things other than writing blog posts. I have attempted to sit down and write this update post several times to no avail. There is just so much to include that I don’t know where to start and I don’t want to risk inducing a bout of narcolepsy in anyone reading it. So here’s a little taster of what has been going on in the House of Noodle…

House of Noodle, boutique hotel, opens for business

We knew April was going to be a busy month for family and visitors – ok, probably not as busy as it was for the Middleton/Windsor households, but still hectic by Noodle standards. Mister Noodle’s parents flew in from London, his brother popped over from China and one of his oldest school friends and their girlfriend came via Hong Kong. Having five visitors, all new to Singapore, and all with us at the same time has been a great way of looking at our adopted home afresh and also means that the House of Noodle now has an abundant supply of towels, bedding and champagne glasses (bookings always welcome). So, five visitors, two weeks and the little red dot to explore. What to do….

Checking in at Chinatown

Explore Singapore!

We went down some of the well-trodden tourist routes, like the night safari, Singapore Slings at Raffles, taking in the waterfront area at night.We also tried some things that were new to us Noodles as well as to the rest of our party. Our cycling trip to Pulau Ubin, the small island off Singapore, was one particular highlight. We cycled, we wildlife spotted, we laughed – and I brought all my previously acquired Brownie/Famous Five experience to the fore by remembering to pack a picnic…well, some cheese rolls and biscuits at least.

Boat to Pulau Ubin - state of the art health & safety signage

And beyond…

We also got to venture further afield…

Inspired by posts from the wonderful Notabilia and Flora we decided to take a trip on the old Malaysian train line from Tanjong Pagar station to Johor Bahru, across the causeway. It is an experience that is very time limited as the line, in its present form, will close in the summer.  My father-in-law loves anything with a whiff of diesel and the glimpse of an engine and getting the opportunity to nose around the abandoned trains at the old Johor Bahru station was quite an experience.

We also made a five-day visit to Sarawak, Borneo with Mister Noodle’s parents. I will post separately about this shortly as it was a quite incredible adventure – jungle trekking, river dolphin spotting, orangutan watching and blowpipe firing – and all only an hour’s flight from Singapore. I used to live an hour away from London, but never met anyone like this…

Or saw views like this…

Sunset, Damai Beach, Sarawak

And then there were none

Barely was there enough time to take in the eerie quiet or do the washing after all our visitors had left and Mister Noodle and I were packing our spotted handkerchiefs to head off on separate adventures – Mister Noodle on a trip to Tioman on the Malaysian east coast and me to England.

All I have heard from Mister Noodle about Tioman was that “It was fantastic. The snorkelling is out of this world. We must go back”. So, when we do, I will write a bit more.

As for me and England, I spent a wonderful, whistle-stop week catching up with some of my nearest and dearest and inhaling great lungfuls of cool air. The last few weeks in Singapore have been stifling for a Suffolk girl so I relished the chance to wear jeans and not feel like I was going to collapse in a heap like a melted ice cream. Suffolk in spring is really quite beautiful…

Darling buds of May

So there we have it. A busy two months that have been full of fun, laughter, family and friends. And as for the German philosopher – here’s a bit of Goethe for a rainy Wednesday afternoon: ‘There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings’. I came across this quote earlier in the week and it summed up a lot of what the last few weeks have been about and how important our families have been in all that we have done since moving out here. Both sets of parents have been wonderfully behind us with our move to Singapore and it has been great to be able to share some of it with Mister Noodle’s family. At the same time, spending time with them here, and then with my own side of the family back in England, is a reminder of how very important our roots are, wherever our wings may take us.

So, on that pondering note I shall sign off. As I think Mister Noodle’s father would agree, it has been a busy time…

Taking in the sights

Advertisements

Playing with the petrolheads (a weekend at the Malaysian F1)

11 Apr

Since moving to Singapore I have discovered quite a few things about myself that I didn’t know: I actually like avocados, contrary to popular belief I won’t go into complete meltdown being away from home (though it is hard), and most surprisingly of all I quite like Formula 1 racing. Admittedly, my introduction to F1 was at the uber-cool, visually stunning Singapore Night Race in 2010. If you can’t get excited watching very fast, very expensive cars race against a glittering city skyline backdrop at night then it probably isn’t a sport for you. Singapore was so much more than the race alone – converting the roads that are at the heart of the city into a super-slick race track means the whole country gets bitten with a bit of F1 fever. Even the cake shops get in on the action…

Croissant to go

So, when friends suggested to Mister Noodle and me that we travel with them to Kuala Lumpur this weekend for the Malaysian Grand Prix we jumped at the chance. Living in Singapore we are incredibly spoilt for travel – so many destinations are only a short flight away and at just under an hour Kuala Lumpur is the closest. We flew out Friday night and were back home by 11pm again on Sunday.

Unlike Singapore, the Malaysian Grand Prix takes place at a dedicated track – Sepang International Circuit – just outside the city. As first time visitors we opted to stay at an out-of-town hotel, situated between the track and the airport. In hindsight we probably should have just plumped for a city hotel as the nightlife of Putrajaya was a little limited (with the exception of the mass karaoke session being conducted in Chinese right below our hotel restaurant on the Friday night) and the hotel a little, um, odd.  By the end of the weekend it felt a bit like staying in the middle of a resort designed by a group of Disney artists, tasked with conveying the theme of Aladdin  by using a visual game of consequences – no one seemed to know what the other had designed until it was all built. However, as we were travelling with the same friends who got to experience our weird CNY break with us, we felt things were looking up: we had moved on from surroundings whose only distinguishing feature was a burnt-out warehouse to a backdrop that was more industrial estate chic (lots of pruned trees surrounded by concrete). We did, however, get the opportunity to sample a bit of KL during the day on Saturday taking in, amongst other sites, the iconic Petronas Towers.

Petronas Towers, KL

So, to the race itself. We got 3 day passes and went to both the qualifiers and the race. We opted for hillside ‘seats’ which basically involved staking your claim to a bit of grass on the hillside by the track and not moving. By the Sunday race, after 2 days in 30 odd degree heat, and a few Saturday night tipples, it also afforded the luxury of being able to lay down. Albeit this involved lying down on the flattened cardboard boxes our friends ingeniously snaffled from a local supermarket. As we arrived at the track on Sunday, so did a great contingent from Lotus, each driving an Elise, with the odd Aston Martin thrown in for good measure. Inevitably our arrival, documented below, cut slightly less of a dash and did not demand the road being blocked by the police in quite the same way:

Make way, 'Team Cardboard' have arrived

In many respects Sepang didn’t have the glamour quota of Singapore and there were a few things that left a little to be desired – the on site food, facilities and general organisation (there was a complete lack of queues – something so hard for a Brit to deal with at any public event). Still, we had a great time. Sepang was much more about the racing and having enjoyed this experience, albeit in a different way to the Singapore Grand Prix, I think I may be slightly more than just a fair-weather F1 fan. I am already getting excited at the prospect of Singapore in September and to demonstrate why, I turn to the wonderful BBC who put together this spine-tingling promo for the 2010 qualifiers:

Hopefully by September my F1 knowledge will have increased enough that I feel confident writing a post about the actual race. At present my knowledge extends to knowing who won yesterday (Vettel), that one Brit was happy (Button) and one was…um…not (Hamilton), and that everyone was hoping for a bit of rain as the going gets really tough at Sepang when it is slippery.

PS: One other thing I discovered about myself whilst in Malaysia – opting for the Sunday morning lie-in isn’t necessarily the right thing to do. According to my friend I missed the opportunity of seeing the entire Toro Rosso team (comprising 40 young Italian men), who were staying at our hotel, getting ready to leave for the track on Sunday morning. Hey ho, some you win, some you snooze!

You’ve got (expat) mail!

1 Mar

Every so often an article will appear in the media bemoaning the death of the handwritten, posted letter, at the hands of the evil interweb. However, one of the joys of being an expat is an increase in lovely letters. Along with the usual utility and phone bills, we now receive in the post little cards and parcels from back home that, along with the Skyping and the emailing, make the 7,000 miles shrink that little bit more.

My lovely Auntie Mad, for example, has sent us a postcard or note to mark every 24th of the month ever since we got married on that day last July. There have been postcards of our beloved Suffolk and even a card written and signed whilst we all mucked in and stuffed the turkey on Christmas Eve. Mister Noodle’s mum has sent articles including one from a national UK paper about Mister N’s favourite real ale pub (The Fat Cat, Ipswich*) which was slightly to Mister N’s horror as he feared national media exposure may mean he will never get a seat again in the already quite ‘cosy’ establishment.

Anyway, I got home from work this afternoon to find a parcel from my mum that, alongside the required contact lens prescription, included a selection of articles from Sunday supplements. Whilst Mister N. can download the main papers to his whizzy Kindle, the magazines remain beyond our sticky little noodley grasps so are also a welcome sight.

A little light reading

I particularly love the fact that my mum makes clear where she has sent an incomplete article that backs on to the ones she has meant to send. I think the big crosses look like parental censorship although I know this isn’t her intention. So, this week, whilst I shall be reading about David Hockney and Sebastian Faulks’ views of characters in fiction I will NOT be reading about American feminism.

Censorship Mum-style

*For anyone looking for really good ale, homemade scotch eggs and the occasional Tractor Boy with a 6ft pitch fork propping up the bar it is the place to go (just don’t tell anyone else).

An unexpected brush with art

15 Feb

My last few journeys back from work have been a little fraught. Massive storms seem to find 4.30pm a particularly good time to start raging and have invariably left me sodden and a little shaken. Friday’s episode was so bad that, after dodging lightning with a very flimsy umbrella on an overpass,  I ran in, lunged for my eyemask and buried myself under the covers.*

Anyway, suffice to say I have not found the journey back home very pleasurable for the last few days. As the storms started up again this afternoon I feared I was in for a repeat performance. However, wonder of wonders, the rain cleared by the time I got off the bus and as I sauntered my way home I came across this, oh so carefully placed arrangement on the side of the road:

Isn’t it beautiful? Someone has taken the trouble to tear the leaf into an ‘o’ and arrange the berries and flower and I have absolutely no idea why. The mystery makes it even more appealing and intriguing. I felt as if I had glimpsed behind the wardrobe door into Narnia!

So I skipped on a little more lightheartedly all thanks to an unexpected brush with art. Thank you unknown artist – your work is beautiful and this photo may even make its way onto my wall.

*As a child I hated balloons and had to have indoor fireworks that looked like smouldering dog mess in a biscuit tin. It explains a lot.

Sharing the (Poodle Noodle) love

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

An early morning Valentine’s greeting winged its way across the ether from a certain Poodle Noodle today. Never one to shy away from the limelight he felt the most fitting thing he could send was a picture of himself. Just how he managed to set the self timer whilst in this pose I shall never know! I expect he feels a need to take a break before the doormat is deluged with all those cards from lovelorn Suffolk lady westies.

There has been lots I have been loving about this week in Singapore too.

Rediscovering yoga classes after a six month break has been particularly good. I have spent the last few months looking for a class to join but have been put off by the exorbitant fees charged at a lot of the gyms/yoga centres in town. Whilst working in London I was lucky enough to be able to attend a lunchtime class at work that cost not much more than $15 a class. Here it seems the going rate, unless you want to commit to a year’s worth, is about double that and I fear that my wallet isn’t as flexible as my limbs (will hopefully be).

However, at the end of last week I made the most wonderful discovery: Singapore Community Centres. Run by the People’s Association, the centres offer a range of courses, activities and facilities for the local community. My local centre offers courses ranging from ‘the art of sushi and Japanese cuisine’ to line dancing. I have opted for the elementary Hatha yoga course and at $60 for 10 weeks I am not complaining (although I am a little bit in pain after my first class yesterday). Through Mister Noodle’s work and various other  sources, we had several induction/introductions to living in Singapore yet nobody mentioned the community centres. It is such a shame as if I had only discovered them six months ago I would be tying myself in unimaginable acrobatic knots by now!

Getting crafty

 

The "before I cast my magical sewing spell" shot...

 

Having discovered the fantastic design*sponge and spool blogs over this weekend I have embarked on a little crafty project. More to follow on this one later as the results are likely to turn into gifts. Suffice to say I am very pleased with my first efforts and it has also given me an excuse to spend a good hour and a half wandering the fabric and button aisles at Spotlight.

Backing a winner

Friday night took us to the Turf Club, the home of horseracing in Singapore. I won’t pretend my weekends in England used to be filled with horseracing and gambling. The odd trip to Newmarket for birthdays/stag dos was about as far as it went for Mister Noodle and me. However, when in Singapore and it is pelting with rain what else do you do but go and watch horses run about on grass? Luckily the weather cleared up in time for the racing and we made our way up to Kranji. The course is only 11 years old and much larger than I had imagined. In another case of managing your expectations I hadn’t really been expecting too much from it but was very pleasantly surprised. We opted to pay $20 to go to @hibiscus which is a lounge with bar, restaurant and your own screens for watching the race. Mainly filled with other expats it was a good introduction to the racing but our party of six agreed that next time we would pay a bit less and go closer to the action in the grandstand.

"Look. This is called a horse. You bet on it"

Mister Noodle had more success in the gambling stakes than I did and won enough to make the night out free. Maybe I need to change my tactic of choosing:  given the amount of information they give you in the brochure on weight, form, trainer etc. maybe choosing by horse name and jersey pattern isn’t the most informed way to go! I think we will definitely be back and I am particularly keen to go for the Singapore Airlines International Cup with its $3,000,000 prize fund. I am hoping this will be the one for the best Ascot-style people spotting. In which case, the next  craft project will have to be something like this:

Yes, a rather tenuous link, but I couldn’t end a Valentine’s Day post with a picture of a horse’s behind could I? X

Chinese New Year breaks: Managing your expectations

8 Feb

Ah, seeing in Chinese New Year on a tropical island…relaxing in the sun, soaking up the surroundings, perhaps a little bit of exploring and a lot of cocktails by the pool. Are you jealous yet?

Ever since we arrived in Singapore everyone we encountered told us we must go away for CNY. “The whole of Singapore shuts up shop for a week”, “You’ll either starve or die of boredom”, “If you don’t book soon you’ll end up in an industrial wasteland with only the rusty shell of a warehouse to look at”. Two of those statements are lies, the third is the honest truth and to prove it here is the photographic evidence. The picture above wasn’t shot by my fair hands, unfortunately the one below was. And it is the only picture I took in the whole 3 days we were in our chosen tropical getaway.

 If you squint beyond the scrubland you can just make out the deserted husk of the aforementioned rusty warehouse. This was the only building of note in our immediate surroundings. Still jealous? If you are, then get in touch – I know a hotel that will be just perfect for you.

I feel a bit mean dissecting everything that was wrong with where we visited because that wouldn’t be fair but to give you an idea of how our break panned out, here are a few choice quotes from the weekend:

As we left Singapore by boat to head for our tropical getaway one of our fellow travellers and friends offered the following words of wisdom: “I guess it’s all about managing your expectations”. Just imagine how bursting with holiday excitement we all were!

On our first night: “This is a s!*@ hole, isn’t it?” “Yes”

On our second day: “It really is a s!*@ hole, isn’t it?” “Yes”

On our second night: “It’s still a s!*@ hole, shall we get an early ferry back?” “YESSSS!!!!”

As we left our tropical getaway to head home Mister Noodle offered an insight worthy of all the great travel writers, “At least it didn’t rain”.

So there we have it. Chinese New Year. I really thought I couldn’t top my photo of an Ikea shopping trolley last week but it seems with the rusty shell of a warehouse I am really spoiling you, dear reader. Luckily for us, we hadn’t planned our CNY break as a romantic break a deux and went with friends. We ate a bit, drank a bit and laughed A LOT and isn’t that what holidays are all about? I am sure the laughing buddha would approve!

(With apologies to my mum, my auntie and my mother in law for the swearing!)

Flights of fancy – feathers, fashion and flat pack

2 Feb

…It’s all in a week’s living in Singapore!

Last Monday I took a trip to Jurong Bird Park, situated on the western side of the island. According to the Park’s website it holds over 4,600 birds and is the largest park of its kind in the world. It was certainly a riot of colour, and of noise, when I visited. From beautiful coral pink flamingoes to penguins that were even newer arrivals in Singapore than me, it certainly brightened up an otherwise dreary, drizzly Monday afternoon. The iridescent colouring of some of the birds’ feathers was just exquisite and a great reminder that if you want to find absolute beauty, always go back to nature.

I apologise for the lack of photographs – the weather was not the greatest, I feared my phone camera probably wasn’t up to the job, and I was battling with an umbrella. All in all, not the stuff that National Geographic images are made of! However, I would urge anyone visiting Singapore and looking for more than a whizz along Orchard Road and around the Singapore Flyer, to go. We have Mister Noodle’s parents visiting in a couple of months and we’ll definitely make a return visit. See, so good, you can go twice!

The Bird Park wasn’t my only encounter with feathered visions of beauty in the week. A few days later I took myself along to the Valentino Retrospective: Past/Present/Future at Resorts World Sentosa.

As far as I am aware this is the first large-scale exhibition to be held at the resort and it was a great way to kick things off. The exhibition documents the work of Valentino Garavani (‘Valentino’ to just about everyone in the world) and current Creative Directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli. Some of the more recent collections included beautifully constructed cocktail dresses, as above, with intricate feather trim, and even, in one case a most beguiling mini-bustle.

 Looking around the 100 piece collection I was reminded of how I used to sit in front of The House of Elliot on a Friday and the Clothes Show on a Sunday frantically drawing my own creations. Unfortunately the world of couture has yet to come knocking for the ‘House of Noodle’. However I have never shaken that budding eight year old fashion designer’s quickening of the heart, dizzy headed feeling when enjoying fashion and it all came flooding back as I toured the Valentino exhibition. My personal favourites were the 1960s pieces, including this beautiful lace dress commissioned for Jackie Kennedy’s wedding to Aristotle Onassis.  

(The image above is courtesy of a Brides Magazine feature on iconic weddings. Not quite sure if the SJP Sex and the City one is really that iconic but hey-ho!).

So from birds of paradise, via Jackie Kennedy and couture creations, we get to Saturday and…flat pack. On moving to Singapore an inordinate amount of an expat’s time seems to be spent in Ikea purchasing all the things that, in a fit of light-hearted abandon and panic packing, got given away. For nothing. Earlier in the week I had treated Mister Noodle to a rather lengthy one-woman rant about why I would never, ever be buying another wooden rolling pin in my life and by the weekend I was back in Ikea repurchasing more of the stuff we had foolishly scattered to the winds six months ago. Deciding to make this a solo mission (the number of miserable looking couples I encountered there justified this decision) I found myself grappling with two standing lamps, a selection of storage boxes, picture frames, folding chairs and other assorted, bizarrely named pieces of Swedish homeware. I don’t know whether it was the joy of a trip to Ikea sans marital argument or the giddy aroma of rock bottom priced hotdogs, but I felt the need to document what, in my humble opinion, I believe to be supreme trolley packing:

30-odd years (or 30 odd years) of experiencing how my dad can speedily pack furniture into a van* have finally borne fruit!

So, there we have it – my week in pictures. No photographs of the 4,000 birds at the Bird Park but we do have one of an Ikea trolley. David Bailey eat your heart out…and a happy Chinese New Year to everyone else!

Jurong Bird Park, 2 Jurong Hill Singapore 628925
open 8.30am to 6.00pm daily. Admission $18 adult, $12 children.

Valentino retrospective: Past/Present/Future,Resorts World Sentosa. Open until 13th February *plus* opening hours extended from 11am to 11pm 4th February to 13th February. Admission $12 (with various concessions).

*I should clarify that my father is in the auction business, and not a burglar.