Tag Archives: Singapore

Walking the line

26 Jul

Last week Mister Noodle and I took a couple of stolen hours to walk part of a railway line in Singapore. This may not sound the most exciting/romantic/sane thing to do just before a first wedding anniversary but we had our reasons.

Over the last few months we have followed the build-up to the permanent closure of the Malaysian-operated KTM service and the tracks. June 30 saw the last trains to run on the line before it was shut down, the land handed back to Singapore, and the steel tracks dismantled. It has been very interesting to witness reaction in Singapore to the closure of the line and how people are engaging with plans for the land’s future. There have been parties on the last trains, internet campaigns to see the land protected, and many, many people making the most of the opportunity to walk a previously unexplored area of the city-state.

Luckily for us the one area of track to remain open to the public until the end of the month is the section nearest to our condo, running from the old Bukit Timah Station to the Rail Mall. Since moving to Singapore last August we have become accustomed to lying in bed hearing the old stock rumble past, horns tooting, early in the morning and late at night. My affection for this daily occurrence turned somewhat farcical on the last night the trains operated as, with a hint of whimsical sorrow in my voice, I solemnly noted the passing of the last train…THREE times. There was the last train with passengers, the last train driven by the Sultan of Johor, and the last last train to take the Malaysian railway staff home.

We began our journey at the old Bukit Timah railway station. I feel a strange affection for the abandoned little station. Despite the 30 degree heat, there is something about the place that transports me back to the country station closest to my home in Suffolk. I am reminded of warm spring mornings, waiting for a train as the sun rises, listening to lambs in the field opposite (yes, really) and perishing winter nights, stood in the dark trying to stop Poodle Noodle weeing on everything and everyone in sight.

Mister Noodle and I headed over the bridge, sidestepping a couple having engagement photos taken by the 1871 marker stone (perhaps they were hoping some of the bridge’s longevity would rub off on their union).

     

Even though every sane part of us knew the line had stopped operating weeks ago, both of us did find our sense of sound a little more highly attuned that afternoon – as if there would be the faraway rumblings of a train on the tracks or a set of points creaking into position.

It was fascinating to walk the line and get a different perspective on Singapore. 5pm on a Thursday night and the line was quite busy with other walkers – all of whom gave us gleeful, knowing smiles, as if we were sharing in some secret, slightly prohibited experience. The more we walked, the more I could appreciate the calls for the line to be preserved as a green corridor for pedestrians through the city. There was so much more to take in than on the concrete pavements and motorway flyovers.

202-30 marks the spot: the sleeper directly opposite our condo

As we approached the Rail Mall  we came across a small shrine-like set-up tucked underneath one of the bridges. We have no idea why it was placed there – one of the many stories you can only imagine have travelled up and down the line over the years.

As you can just about make out in the distance of the picture below the tracks have already started to be removed and, with a year-end deadline to have all materials handed back to Malaysia, the opportunities to walk on or photograph the line are rapidly disappearing. So much changes so quickly in the Little Red Dot, I really hope that there will be a permanent preservation of some of the line for people to enjoy on foot as we have done.

More information about the fabulous campaign to preserve the line as a green corridor can be found at: http://www.thegreencorridor.org/

Discolosure: I owe a great deal of my interest in this subject to my close friends Flora and Notabilia. My first outing with them was to photograph Bukit Timah station (they did the photographing whilst I cursed my choice of flip-flop footwear). At the same time, their train trip to Johor Bahru inspired me to do the same with my in-laws. There is nothing like friends who will walk with you along a narrow railway bridge when the line is still operating, or delve through a bug infested abandoned cemetery in the interests of finding out a little bit more about our new home.

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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

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

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.

Viewing the world in 22 minutes

19 Jan

Two very different experiences I had in Singapore last week have left me ruminating on the same topic: the way my life has altered in oh so many technological ways since moving out here.

Twitter Flitter

Obviously there have been great physical changes that you would naturally associate with a move from rural Suffolk to a tropical metropolis but I think it is the way I conduct my life, in terms of technology, that has altered the most. On a normal day here, before even getting out of bed, I will have read UK newspaper articles via Twitter, checked up on friends and family via Facebook and email, listened to the previous night’s BBC Radio 4 podcast of The Archers and scoured a number of blogs from around the world. As I prepare dinner I can listen to more radio stations online via wireless headphones whilst following a recipe on my phone. In the past five months I have met and made friends via social networking, ordered presents on my phone for delivery to the UK whilst sitting in a Singapore Starbucks… the list is endless. It is all convenient, fantastic and (with the exception of Facebook and email) fairly new to me. However, as I said, two very different experiences last week led me to think a little bit more about the role these particular technological advances should play in my life.

Finding space for ‘my humble study’

On Wednesday I took myself off to the Asian Civilisation Museum. I love the Singapore museums, in much the same way that their Facebook profile picture below demonstrates! One of the first visits we made on arrival to Singapore was to the National Museum and I fell in love with the design and feel of the place, in particular the cleverly laid out spice room which beautifully catalogues all the range of herbs and spices used in Singaporean cooking via Pantone colour-coded kilner jars. It has to be seen to be appreciated!

 Anyway, back to the Asian Civilisation Museum, where a copy of the following poem, My Humble Study by Liu Yuxi, caught my eye:

In my humble study I am
the most virtuous…
I strum my plain old zither,
read Buddhist sutra,
No music to grate my ears,
No office papers to tire my mind
and my soul.

 

The importance of making space for quiet, considered reflection resonated with me. I can keep checking my phone a million times a day, jumping from one subject to another at the speed of light without much reflection, or I can begin to become a bit more disciplined. Just taking time to walk round a museum, surrounded by the wonderful, physical permanence of artefacts centuries old, was a good first step.

Achieving balance

Then on Saturday I went to an event which was, in some ways, a million miles away from the idea of creating the ‘humble study’ : Art Stage Singapore. Having been to the inaugural Affordable Art Fair last November, I was keen to visit another debut international art event to see what artists, works and dealers it would attract. The name check of international artists was impressive: Picasso to Murakami, Banksy to Ai WeiWei. Local artists were also well represented and my fellow blogger, Notabilia, has written a very interesting piece regarding Remaking Art in the Everyday, and the representation of Singaporean artists at Art Stage Singapore.

I was attracted to visiting the show on the Saturday in the hope that I would catch photographer David LaChapelle’s talk in the afternoon. Along with a good few hundred other people I got to hear the photographer talk about his career and the experiences he has had along the way – the good and the bad. In talking about the need for balance in life, LaChapelle referenced the news slogan of WINS, a New York radio station: ‘You give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world’. LaChapelle questioned our capacity for really taking in the world in just 22 minutes. How much do we actually absorb? With the advent of Twitter, a whole lot of the world can be boiled down into 140 characters and I would question how much of it I am taking in at the moment. Whilst I can’t take off for a Hawaiian farm retreat in the way that Mr LaChapelle does, I can start to find a bit more balance I think.

So, what have I done with all these philosophical musings? Set up my own study with zither and turned off the radio? No, not yet. I did pay a visit to an abandoned Malaysian cemetery in the Kampong Glam area of Singapore with blogging friends Notabilia and Flora – and I suppose you can’t get much quieter or more reflective than that!

Miles of tiles – the Singapore Eclectic

16 Dec

With Mister Noodle battling the man-flu last weekend, I took myself off on a solo jaunt to a little shopping area close to Singapore’s Chinatown. Originally I set off in search of BooksActually, a treasure trove of books, stationery and trinkets located on Club Street. After only 5 minutes in the shop I could see that I could seriously put a dent in my purse. Books Actually is one of the those places you go in search of gifts and end up seeing as many things that you would like to buy for yourself.

In an attempt to exercise some book-buying self-control, I prized myself away and went on a little wander. Only a few yards from BooksActually I happened upon Amoy Street and some very beautiful, tiled shophouses…

 

This style of shophouse is apparently called ‘Singapore Eclectic’ and more information can be found on the very informative Heritage Trails website.

The pastel painted buildings with their matching tiles are incredibly beautiful but I also like the way the bar below has taken on board the traditional style of its neighbours but with a rather quirky, modern feel and lots of little skulls.

I think this one appealed because I have serious scarf envy at the moment, having seen several women in Singapore wearing the Alexander McQueen skull scarf. What I wasn’t expecting, when I took myself off on a Saturday afternoon bookshop excursion was to come back with tile envy as well!

I will definitely return to the Club Street / Amoy Street area in the new year, with Mister Noodle in tow, as alongside the shops there were lots of rather fine looking restaurants and bars that need to be explored. So much for any thoughts of a new year diet!