Happy Chinese New Year (CNY)!! A new acronym for me, but hey, you learn something every day.
Feb 7th starts Chinese New Year, the year of the rat. The entire country shuts down to celebrate and the mad shopping frenzy starts early in order to make sure you have secured all of the special food and articles you need for the most festive season here.
Even the MRT station wishes you a Happy Chinese New Year...right above the camera. That's typical Singapore for you.
And then you have your typical foods that range from Indian and Malay to Chinese. There are hawker stalls everywhere you turn and lots of opportunities to try different food and drinks. One of my favorites is a sugar cane drink, literally squeezed fresh from sugar cane.
These critters are alive and crawling around. Apparently they are boiled and you suck the snail portion out of the shell. As my friends explained it me, "It's quite tough to suck out the meat." Yeah, I bet!
We went out for dim sim and here is my friend Corinna eating her favorite dish - chicken feet. Not a lot of meat if I do say so myself.
This is actually a fruit. I think I'll add it to the list to try next trip. Looks like arthritis hands, if you ask me.
Walking around Chinatown shows the love of food most Singaporeans have. There are stalls and stalls of goodies eaten over Chinese New Year.
No trip would be complete without trying to local beers - here is Nissa with a couple Tiger beers in Chinatown.
My friend Won Feo came all the way from Malaysia (KL) to spend time with me - a 4 hour drive one way. Cheers Won Feo!!
Here is a hawker stall - I liked this place because the building was so pretty. And the food was great too, of course.
No blog entry would be complete about Singapore without including the amazing food here. Singaporean food is known for being spicey and as diverse as it's culture. Every time I come here, I try to sample something new.
This time it was durian - the King of Fruits! Durian is so smelly that it's not allowed on the trains here. The texture is um...different. It's very yellow and soft around the large seed. If you close your eyes, you can imagine that it's like custard...almost...a combination of sweet and sour. I have to say it's not for everyone, but my friends Edwin and Carmen LOVE durian and took me to try some.
For the weekend, I went with a friend of mine to wonderful Bintan, Indonesia. From Singapore, it's only a 2 hour ferry ride away. We picked a place that was marketed as an "adventure resort" and as gorgeous as the scenery was, it was an adventure, to say the least.
Here is a snapshot of our activities.
This 3 hour hike - uphill - was in about 100 degree weather. Note the ropes to help us get to the top of the mountain. Would have been good to know about beforehand, or I probably would not have worn my Tevas! I did mention that this was an "adventure" right?
The place we stayed in was amazing too. How cool is this??
Breakfast in Bintan was unique. Who knew that ramen was a breakfast dish? Well it is!
One of the highlights was how people get around - they basically pile everything on a motorbike. It can be your entire family or your entire crop of goods.
It took about 4 days for my cankles to return to their normal size, but now I am free to roam around Singapore and explore this great city. It's prepared for Chinese New Year, which takes place next week. In order to experience the spirit of Chinese New Year, I went to Chinatown for dinner and some shopping. While cruising around, I couldn't resist getting foot reflexology and a back and neck massage. The foot reflexology basically told me that I need to take care of my neck and upper back (duh!) and my stomach (uh, ok).
Here is a picture of the restaurant where I ate dinner with my friend from work. We had chili tofu, pork with a spicy sauce, steamed shrimp and local Chinese beer to wash it down. YUMMY! Hey Eric - check out these SHRIMP!!
Here I am at a place called "Chomp Chomp" - anyone for Pig Organ Soup? I am pretty sure that's a business model that won't survive in the U.S.
The food here is amazing - what a spread! I ate stingray for the first time and I really, really liked it. It was covered in chili paste. You just have to love a country that focuses on eating and drinking. I sure do!
I arrived in Singapore early Tuesday morning. My legs are tired from the run and I developed cankles during the flight. I look like elephant woman from the knees down. I went to my hotel, Shangri-la, and checked in early, took a shower and headed out for my all day meeting. By about 3pm I was ready for bed, but the only way to recover from jetlag is to acclimate to the new time zone right away. So I went out with some friends to a neighborhood outdoor market area called "Chomp Chomp".
We ate all kinds of great food - satay, noodles, shrimp dish and the highlight for me - stingray! This was the first time I had eaten stingray and I have to say, it was pretty good. It was prepared with lots of chili paste on it so it was super spicy, but the fresh sugar cane juice washed it down nicely and it was delicious.
On the way back to the hotel, we saw the most amazing festival. Men were walking down the street carrying these complex and gorgeous arrangements on their bodies and what was incredible about it is that everything was pierced to hold them in place. It is called THAIPUSAM. This famous Hindu festival has to be witnessed to be believed. In a gesture of penance and seeking forgiveness from the gods, male Hindu devotees make the three-kilometre walk from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Sri Thandayuthapani Temple, laden with enormous kavadi, or portable shines. The kavadi is pierced to the devotees' body by spikes and skewers; it is normally borne on the body, and sometimes dragged by the devotee like a chariot. Supporters of the kavadi-bearer gather around him, chanting prayers, clapping and shouting their encouragement along the way. This fascinating, logic-defying ceremony lasts the entire day, and observers are welcome.
Here is a picture of one contraption - notice the bells hanging off the flesh of his arms. If you are questioning if it's pierced, assume it is!
If you want to read more about this annual festival, check out this link:
It was a chilly morning (40 degrees) last Sunday. Perfect running weather. Vicki and I ventured to the start of the race, with Eric as our moral support. I had my ipod for this race, a first for me. I figured that I may as well try it and see if I like running with music, and as it turned out, it was great. It really took my mind off the run.
I was really happy with how I did considering the fact that I had barely trained. My goal was to finish, but of course, the minute I started, my competitive side took over and I had to push myself. All of that is well and good, except for the fact that I was about to get onto a plane to Singapore and sit for 18 hours - not a good move when recovering from a race.
Here is one of Vicki and I with our well-earned medals.
This morning I did a duathlon run by the SD Triathlon Club with my husband, Eric and my friend, Vicki. It was a 2.2 mile run, 14 mile bike followed by a 2.2 run again. The weather was foggy and cold when we arrived at 6:30am, but by the start at 7am it was already starting to clear. The run was great considering my knee pain that I am nursing, the bike was a challenge and the last run was tough. The challenge of triathlons for me is getting off the bike and getting my legs to run. They feel like lead balloons. The good news is that my knee and hamstring felt really good afterwards.
While most people don't like rats too much, in fact, this animal is viewed much differently in the East. The Eastern rat is revered for its quick wits and its ability to accrue and hold on to items of value; rats are considered a symbol of good luck and wealth in both China and Japan. Clever and quick-witted, the Rat of the Chinese Zodiac is utterly disarming to boot. Possessed of excellent taste, this Sign flaunts its style at every turn. Its natural charm and sharp, funny demeanor make it an appealing friend for almost anyone. The Rat likes to know who is on its side and will treat its most loyal friends with an extra measure of protection and generosity.
Behind that sweet smile, though, Rats are keen and unapologetic promoters of their own agendas. This Sign is motivated by its own interests, which often include money; greed can become a problem if the Rat isn't careful to keep its priorities straight. This Sign's natural powers of charm and persuasion can definitely come in handy! Although they are often hoarders, Rats can be very generous to those in their pack, namely friends and family members who have proven their loyalty. Others might perceive them as quick-tempered and sharp-tongued, but never boorish. Verbal jousting is a great pleasure for the Rat, a Sign that everyone around will quickly learn either to love or to hate.
Rats enjoy being on the outside looking in, as the outside affords a view into the inner workings of a system or situation. The Rat's keen mind always seeks out new knowledge, to be stored away for future use. This ever-curious Sign also welcomes challenges as a way to stay sharp. If boredom sets in the Rat is no fun at all, but that isn't likely; this Sign knows how to keep itself entertained.
A valuable lesson for Rats is to learn to consider others above themselves, at least sometimes. If they can develop their sense of self and realize it leaves room for others in their life as well, Rats could find true happiness.
The most compatible match for a Rat is the Dragon or the Monkey.
Is it bad that I am tired after running just 6 miles? I went to Penasquitos Canyon today for a run with my friend and after some of the hills, we were poopered. How the heck are we going to get ready to run a half marathon in 16 days? Extra training is on the radar for the next 2 weeks.
I am ready for a new year, for some changes and challenges and a brand new start. There is something about the new year that cleanses away the old year, and for some reason, I am ready this year. To ring in the New Year in style, we went to a friend's house party. It was a holiday progressive, with the last house sporting a live neighborhood band. We danced and sang the new year in with our closest 30-40 friends. I have my list of resolutions ready and have already started to implement some of them. Like I said, I am ready for this year. Bring it on!
I currently write this from the western part of Puerto Rico. When I get back, I have 2 weeks before I leave for Australia - I'll be taking the new Sony GPS unit with me to track where I go and the fun places I'll be hiking and diving. Can't wait!