Merlion symbol of Singapore

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Biking Adventure

Bikes on the bum boat
Friday was a holiday for Good Friday-they try to cover all the religions here, so it is good for days off at least. Since we had spent two days unpacking we were up for a change on Sunday. I had read about an island called Pulau Ubin just off the coast of Singapore. It is said to be like going back to Singapore in the 1960's before all the development occurred. We loaded up the bikes in the back of the car and headed for the ferry terminal. It is a very small terminal and being a Sunday it was pretty crowded. Not knowing exactly what we were supposed to do and lugging bikes with us we stood out as tourists. Luckily another bike rider pointed us the way to the boats and we were quickly ushered onto a bum boat. These boats hold 12 people, no more/no less. As it was mostly families traveling together we were needed to get this group of ten on their way. You have to carry the bike down some stairs and then try to get onto a moving boat-quite an experience. Off we went on our 15 minute ride to the island. The island was forested and very green with few buildings visible from the approach. There were many bike rental shops in the small town, but it was not at all crowded and we didn't see many people on the trails. The trails travel all around the island and are mostly gravel roads. There is a mountain bike park with single track trails and some very steep slopes in a quarry which we avoided. There were also a few historical sites such as a vacation home built by a wealthy Brit in the early 1900's. It really was a world away from the modern, crowded city of Singapore. We ate lunch at a small outdoor waterside cafe. A good day overall and a chance to see another side of Singapore.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More Laundry

I was so excited to move into the new apartment over the weekend and to have a brand new washer and dryer, complete with instructions. Being the anal type I read the directions and tried to figure out what 5 kg of laundry might look like and loaded it into the machine. I picked from the myriad of setting choices including spin speeds ranging from 200-600 and pushed start. Water was dispensed and bubbles were visible in the window, all good signs. After an hour and a half it was still washing away; these better be some really clean clothes. It finally finished after almost two hours. I went to load the clothes into the dryer, which is on top of the washer but not connected, only to find myself awash in water. The laundry room floor was an inch deep and it was headed out the back door. Luckily they have drains everywhere here so it didn't go into the kitchen. I went ahead and put the clothes in the dryer hoping the water would just disappear. At least the drying only takes an hour, but I still had a floor covered in water. So much for getting laundry done, it just doesn't seem to be in the cards for me. The workmen onsite came over on Monday morning and discovered the drain was blocked. They spent all day hammering/drilling/chiseling trying to create an opening to no avail. The manager came over several times to look in the hole; I'm not convinced they ever actually put a drain in there. As we are the first to move in this section they checked the other units-yep its all blocked. They fixed me up with a taped section of housing that drapes through the kitchen to the back bathroom drain, so at least I can get some clothes washed. They'll be back to try again from the floor below us to see what they can find. The good news is the rest of the move went smoothly and it is so great to have someone else bring everything in and unpack it. I only had to figure out where to put everything. I've been shopping on craigslist and eBay to pick up some additional furniture, you get to meet some new people and see other areas. Luckily I have a GPS and iPhone or I'd never figure out how to get to these places. We have a Honda CR-V, so I can fit quite a bit in the back, which makes furniture shopping easier than trying to get the TV home in the back of a taxi.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Trying to Keep Up

Everything is starting to happen quickly now. The car was delivered last night and they asked if I wanted to take it out with them to make sure it was okay. It was pouring rain with lightening and thunder and rush hour traffic-no thank you. I had my first driving experience in Singapore this morning, taking Bob to work-good news we both survived it! Luckily he had been commuting by taxi so at least knew the way. I was on my own for the commute back home, but I sat in the parking lot and got the GPS to work and was on my way. The hardest part is that the turn signal and windshield wipers are on opposite sides of the steering wheel from what we are used to. Nothing liking showing what a newbie you are by running the windshield wipers when it isn't raining.

Key set
I also picked up the keys to our new apartment this morning. I can't imagine how we will need so many keys, especially since we have a key card that lets us into the elevator and the door only opens into our apartment. The landlord is Australian Chinese and very nice, even gave us an lovely orchid as a house warming gift. Our agent said in the five years he has been doing this he's never seen them give a gift before. Our furniture should be arriving late next week, the boat has been delayed but hopefully not attacked by pirates. They mostly seem to be going after oil tankers in this area. Our apartment is brand new and only a few people have moved into the complex. The kitchen comes with a dishwasher-a luxury in Singapore, a wine chiller and a washer/dryer. The stove is interesting, it is a combination of two electric halogen burners and two gas burners, all the bases covered. Too bad I'm not much of a chef, but I do get a complimentary in home demonstration and a cooking class from the manufacturer.
View from the balcony

Living/Dining room

There is a 50m pool as well as a gym and BBQ area. I think we will manage to stay busy just in our own little complex. The buildings across the way look the same as ours do and are part of the same complex.

More on the bomb shelter/maid's quarters when I get some new pictures.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


So the good news is we have a washer and dryer in the temporary apartment; bad news is I have no idea what all these little symbols mean. I managed to fit about half a normal load into the washer and poured a little bit of powder into the slide out drawer. Detergent comes in a bag with directions on how much of a scoop to use, but no scoop-was I supposed to buy that somewhere else? Found a power button-the light comes on, and turned one dial to 60 degrees C, sounds reasonable for washing clothes. Since the pink area of the dial seemed to have a picture of a cotton bud, I turned it to that section and viola, water and suds! After checking on it several times we seemed to be making progress, but it still took 2 hours for just half a load. The drying was more straight forward, select a time-60 minutes and push the start button. At least the clothes are dry and not too many wrinkles, but this will be an all day project to get a couple of loads done.

The laundry room is on the back porch, next to the maid's room. Sadly, the furnished apartment doesn't come furnished with a maid. It is interesting that this area is next to the kitchen and none of it has A/C. There is a door to the kitchen to close it off from the rest of the apartment and needless to say I haven't ventured into it much. We are having cereal for breakfast; cheese, crackers, yogurt and fruit for lunch and going out for dinner. I'll be ready to brave the kitchen in the new apartment where it seems to be more a part of the living space, although it too has doors to shut it off if needed.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Arrival in Singapore

After weeks of planning and packing I've finally arrived in Singapore. It hasn't settled in that I'm not on vacation; this really will be my home for the next two years. I had barely arrived at our temporary housing apartment when I got the call that my pick-up for the car rental had arrived-they were 20 minutes early and I hadn't even gotten a shower or food. They took me to the other end of the island to meet up with Bob and look at cars. We had opted for a small SUV so we could carry bikes or people and had a choice of a Toyota RAV4, Kia Song or Honda CR-V. After sitting in each of them and doing a quick three minute drive we decided on the CR-V. It is beige and the other two were black and it seemed a little roomier. I've never chosen a car so quickly. Luckily it won't be ready until next Friday as I don't think I will be ready to drive on the wrong side of the road until then. At least they give the expats automatic cars, I was expecting a stick shift and that is one more thing to deal with.

Today we went to the convention center for a home show to look at furniture. We did not bring over a dining room table and I had hoped to get a sofa bed for one of the guest rooms. We didn't see any furniture of interest and had to walk through the electronics section to get back out-big mistake. As none of our stuff will work in Singapore we need a new TV, DVD player, etc. After listening to several spiels Bob couldn't pass up a 42" TV, something that we would never have had in Los Gatos. The bargain price even included a trolley; okay, sure. We discovered that you went to the back of the showroom along with everyone else making a purchase to pick-up your goods. The furniture is delivered, but the electronics goods are cash and carry. The trolley turned out to be a luggage cart which allowed you to roll your huge box out of the convention center. So here we are, foreigners looking totally out of place trying to haul a big box through the middle of a packed trade show to the exit on the other side. We finally made it out only to discover that the only way to fit in an elevator going down was to first take it up to the top floor and then back down again. Of course we don't have our car yet, so we stood in the taxi line; having taken the bus to get there and deciding that wouldn't be a good option for getting the TV back home. Luckily a beat up taxi was turned down by the woman in front of us, so we loaded the box into the back seat and I was able to scrunch in behind it. We hauled it into the apartment where it sits with all the other boxes ready to go to the new house next weekend.