Monday, November 16, 2015

November 15 Singapore

The Raffles Hotel
The Raffles hotel is a colonial building of impressive size. It takes up a whole block and is a famous landmark in Singapore. It is the home of the Singapore sling and a great place to eat. The Sunday morning brunch is popular and Caroline, Ali, Joan and I joined the crowd today for the buffet. It's too bad I couldn't eat more. I tried to pace myself and not eat any bread. I lost track of how many times I went up to the buffet for food, but I tried every fish dish I could find (around 10, but I had small portions). Then I tried 3 versions of mutton. I never made it to the beef or the dessert table.
I ( Joan) also really enjoyed the food and my 3 Singapore slings. There is a huge choice of all courses, all of which are very beautifully presented {especially the appetizers) and delicious.
In the evening we went to the Cirque du Soleil show Totem, which is doing a 6 week run in Singapore. We all left with a WOW feeling. They put on an amazing show.
Cirque du Soleil
Thanks again to Caroline and Ali for arranging such a wonderful day in Singapore.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 14 Singapore

We flew back to Singapore and had a rest day. In preparation for the Canadian winter we spent the afternoon by the pool. In the evening we enjoyed a meal of Chili Crab – a Singaporean specialty. Like lobster it takes a lots of effort, but unlike lobster the whole dish is covered in chili sauce and you get very messy. Fortunately they have a sink right in the restaurant which I could use. Afterwards we walked to Marina Bay to see the sound and light show.
Skyline from Clarke Quay

November 13 Kuala Lumpur

Our first priority was to get to the Twin Towers for a 9:00 a.m. visit. We visited the Skywalk on the 41st floor. The Skywalk joins the 2 towers on the 41st and 42nd floors. After that we visited the 89th floor viewing platform for the best view in KL.
Joan on Skywalk
On this floor there were viewing binoculars which we used. I saw a very pretty mosque with 2 minarets It looked like the National Mosque. After the visit Joan and I split up and I went to visit the National Mosque. I hopped on the subway and then took an elevated walkway. I made a wrong turn and ended up doing a 3 KM walk to cross a highway. I entered the mosque via a side entrance and the guard asked what I was doing there. When I said I was there for the photography he told me to go around to the front for the best pictures. This was not the Mosque I had seen through the binoculars. It was a new modern mosque which I found very non photogenic. The fountains and the flowers helped but it was a very square building with very little character. I never did find the nice Mosque.
One of the Twin Towers

The Public Bank across the street

Friday, November 13, 2015

November 12 Kuala Lumpur

Petronis Twin Towers
We got on an 8:45 AM flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and we were at our hotel before 11:00 AM. We were on our way at 11:15 to have our first close up look at the Petronas towers. The temperature was hot and the sun was shining, but we discovered that Kuala Lumpur has passageways above ground and covered against the sun and rain. They also spray out cool air which makes walking around the city rather pleasant. The towers were built by the state oil company and incorporate Islamic and Arab influences. At 452 m tall it is the highest twin towers complex in the world. The towers have a pleasant park with fountains, pools and playgrounds on one side, which gives photographers a great view.
We have tickets to go up the towers tomorrow morning and are looking forward to that!.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

November 11 Singapore

One day to rest up and do the laundry. Joan went shopping and I went picture taking. The opportunities were limited as the rain started when I came out of the subway and continued all afternoon. Near sunset the rain stopped and I went to a good spot for night pictures. I couldn't believe they had put a whale statue in the middle of my favorite fountain.
Who put a whale in my fountain?
We went for supper at Caroline and Ali's favorite dim sum restaurant and finished the evening with several games of bananagrams. Dim Sum is a meal of steamed dumplings. You have a choice of a hundred different types. You order several different kinds when you sit down and the dumplings come at irregular intervals depending on the kitchen. They are steaming hot and delicious.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

November 10 Mandalay

Temple Arches
Some of the 729 little Temples
Adding Gold Leaf to Buddha
Mandalay has an area of temples on a hill called Mandalay Hill. Caroline had arranged a driver to take us around all day and drop us at the airport for our 4 PM flight. Our driver drove us up to the top of the hill and we started with temple no. 1. The architecture was different, in that shiny glass was prevalent on the walls and the temple used arches instead of posts. It was reminiscent of a mosque rather than a temple. The temples we saw today were built 1500 years ago, but have been redone several times due to fire and wars. Even though today is Tuesday and not a holiday, the temples were packed with local families going about their business. The temples were also packed with vendors selling flowers and souvenirs. I was particularly pleased, in temple no 1, to see the flower sellers and souvenir sellers going after the locals and ignoring the tourists. I wanted to see how the locals handle the hawkers. The locals seemed to completely ignore the vendors and the vendors stop yelling as soon as they passed. When the vendors approach a tourist they always start with a question “Where are you from?”. We always respond politely and then the vendors lock in and walk beside you until either you buy or ignore them long enough. We need to learn not to be so polite. The second temple we visited was called the largest book ever. 729 Marble slabs containing ancient script are housed in 729 little Stupas surrounding the temple. Here there were fewer locals and more tourists. The hawkers included several young girls who use the line “you buy, I go to school”. Unfortunately, the more they sell the less likely they are to go to school. The third temple we visited was packed with locals. It contains the most revered image of Buddha in Myanmar. The worshipers were applying Gold leaf to the statue of Buddha but only at the base. Women were not allowed past a certain point so they sat near by and watched the ceremony on closed circuit television. As a male I was allowed to walk right up to the Buddha and take pictures. After a quick lunch we were off to the airport and then flew back to Singapore.

We thank Caroline and Ali for having organized and accompanied us on our amazing trip to Myanmar!

Monday, November 9, 2015

November 9 Fly to Mandalay

Kings Palace
Another early start as we flew from Bagan to Mandalay at 8 AM It was the shortest flight ever – about 25 minutes and we were at our hotel by 9:30. We visited the Royal Palace in the morning and then took a taxi to visit U Pein bridge. It is a 2 KM long bridge made mostly of teak wood. We walked halfway across the bridge and then stopped to take pictures . It was a great photo op.  One of the nicest parts of the trip was to see the number of locals out enjoying the sunset and the socializing that happens on the bridge. 

U Pein Bridge

Three Monks on Bridge

November 8 Bagan

Another early start. We had a 5:00 AM pickup for our hot air ballooning trip this morning. We were at the field in the dark and they fed us coffee and croissants while they got organized for the dawn takeoff. About 20 balloons lifted off and we floated over the temples and countryside of Bagan. It was awesome. The light was perfect and the temples are so varied and plentiful it hard to take it all in. We floated for over an hour and enjoyed every minute of the trip. We landed ever so gently and then they got us out and fed us Champagne. What a great way to view the temples.
Inflating Balloons

Temple Group

Holy Temple
Next we rented electric bikes again and set off for the temple viewing tower. From the air it looked like an old temple, but as we got close we could see it was new and modern. It was built in 2005. From the tower, which was just under the height of the tallest pagoda, we could see the temples and their groups. We returned to the viewing tower at sunset and as luck would have it – it was happy hour.
Viewing Tower Sunset