Monday, 19 December 2011

Singapore - days 103 - 106

Singapore is awesome. It’s like a beginners guide to Asia – cos everything is English and it’s totally geared to tourists. And i basically behaved like one for my last three days on holiday!

First of all, Singapore is HOT. Actually it’s more humid than hot. Ridiculously humid. And unfortunately it did take its toll on me on a daily basis. I could manage about 2 hours wandering around in the heat, but would then have to come back to the hotel, cool down in my freezer-like room, and go for a swim at the hotel pool. Then i’d go out for another 2 hours and do it all again!

Secondly, it’s cheap – and sort of expensive at the same time. Cab fares were joke money, couldn’t believe how cheap they were. The food and beer was a whole other ball game. In Clarke Quay and the tourist areas, food and beer were quite pricey (although with a rate of over 2:1, it didn’t work out too bad), however in places like Chinatown and Little India they were dead cheap.

Managed to check out Chinatown and Little India while i was here. Both were kinda what you expected, however the Chinatown was far more fun than most of them i’ve been too. This one actually had pubs, and a random german bratwurst stand, Erichs Wuerstelstand, too! Also got hassled everywhere I walked by people wanting to make me suits and sell me kimonos. Noone seemed to understand that not only did I not have the money, but I didn’t actually want a new suit! I’ll hand it to them for trying their hardest to sell stuff though, they almost convinced me I needed 7 kimonos to lounge around the house in!

Little India was more of the same, but unfortunately the day I went I had an upset stomach. I really fancied a curry, but the no-frills restaurants in the area made me change my mind as I didn’t want to add to the problem. But pricewise the food was joke cheap. Was a bit gutted as I was so up for having a non-tourist curry, but my bottom couldn’t face it! So I just settled for being shouted at by more hard sellers in the street instead.

Every night I played it easy and wandered over to Clarke Quay for food and beers. I just wanted an easy few days and it was so close to the hotel. The only decision I had to make each night was where to eat and where to drink! Obviously I’d already done Hooters, and I went back there on my last day. I had an awesome curry at a place called Ras (to make up for the one I missed in Little india), and also ate at a mega steak restaurant called Hot Stones. Basically, you order the food and they bring you a red hot stone that you cook the steak on. Yes its kinda fun, but I don’t understand how they can charge you twice the price when they aren’t cooking it!

Beerwise I frequented two bars in the area. The first was the Bungy Bar, next to the reverse bungy jump thing on Clarke Quay. It was the only non-restaurant bar I found, was a small place, had fun bar staff and played loud music. The bar had no walls so was open to the Singapore heat and was a very pleasant place to hang out at night. My other bar was a place called Sque that I was excited to see served Little Creatures. I popped into here every night (and day if I passed) for a Bright Ale, and the bar staff remembered my drink everytime. Brilliant.

The major tourist thing I managed to do was get to Singapore Zoo. This was recommended by everyone, so I had to go. Absolutely incredible place – except I got bitten to buggery by the biggest mosquitoes ever (I’m surprised I don’t have Dengue Fever!), and it was by far the hottest day I was there. I managed to see most of the zoo, but was flagging badly by lunchtime, so was home after three hours. It’s a huge place, so there’s a lot of ground to cover. The only place I can compare it to is San Diego Zoo, mainly cos they are both huge. But in Singapore Zoo, most of the animals are “free range”, and don’t appear to be hindered by being in cages!

I got to hang out with some Sloths in the rainforest exhibit (they were literally uncaged and inches away from me – you could have stroked them), and obviously I spent a lot of time watching monkeys. The chimps were pretty amusing as usual, but the big surprise for me was the huge family of Proboscis Monkeys. I’ve never seen these guys up close before, and I spent ages watching them running around, feeding each other, and being harassed by the one baby in the cage. Man they’ve got some noses!

The highlight though was the Orangutans. On first impressions, it looks like they’ve just got a few huts and logs on a little island, with one solitary miserable looking Orangutan sitting in the middle of it. It took me a while to realise that there were vines and nets high up in the trees, hanging over the paths and walkways of the zoo. There were Orangutans everwhere, and it was cool to see them looking down on us with mild amusement. Spent most of my time here, watching their antics and taking a shit load of photos.

My major non-tourist project however was to get hold of an SLR camera here. I basically spent three days dealing with this, checking out every place I found that sold cameras. The only problem was, it seemed the dodgier the place, the more hardcore the sales technique – and the higher likelihood that I was probably gonna end up buying a bootleg. I eventually got my Canon 1100 from Funan IT Mall, from the first shop I checked out on my first day, and I must say, I think I got a pretty good deal all things considering, and I’m dead chuffed with it. Was mega hard work sorting this though, especially as I kept waking up my camera guru in the UK due to the time difference. Sorry Andy!

Day #106 was my final day on holiday, and spent most of it sorting out the camera. Then there was a torrential downpour that lead me to the Bungy Bar for a few beers while I waited for the rain to stop. It was incredible – the rain was actually WARM, and was literally like running through a shower. If I’d had a change of clothes to hand, I would have just stood in it just for the sheer hell of it! Had my final Hooters of the holiday, then it was time to get sorted back at the hotel and to head to the airport.

Not much more to say. The flight was relatively ok for a 14 hour stretch, however I must say that yet again the Quantas food selection wasn’t up to much, but I did get a spare seat next to me to stretch out in so that kinda made up for it. Watched most of Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 7 for the journey home. Got back to Heathrow, was out of the airport under an hour and out into the FREEZING COLD. Stupid flippin country!!!

I was glad to be home – mainly so I could get rid of the rucksack, but was also looking forward to seeing everyone again. I had a couple of quiet days coming up, but on the Saturday (two days after arrival back in the UK), I was due back into London for a week to see bands, roller derby and catch up with the crew again.

And that’s it. End of my 3 and a half month holiday – apart from a quick trip back to San Francisco for New Years Eve. There’s plenty more to say on the subject, but I’m gonna leave that for the next blog. Until then, thanks for reading so far. I’ve had an utterly brilliant time, and I’m still glad that I sold the flat and left my job to do it.

Wish it wasn’t so flippin cold though....

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

An Interlude - HOOTERS round the World!!

ok, a bit of a step away from the blog, but something i promised i'd report on...HOOTERS!!!

its my last day in SIngapore, and i was sitting in the Clarke Quay Hooters, listening to Xmas music, having a beer and some wings, and thinking about the differences in the chain...please bear in mind i've never been to a UK Hooters.

on Day #2 i started my holiday as i meant to go on - a visit to Hooters New York. Over the years i'd been to Chicago, San Fran, Nashville and various Florida/Miami branches, so i know what i'm talking about. Another point, i love Nandos - so thats the kind of restaurant review your gonna get here!

I've always loved Hooters - and for various reasons! Obviously the pretty Hooters girls are a big part of the process, but if i didn't like the food, i def wouldn't eat here. My take on the place - esp in the US - is its a total blue collar/tourist place. No frills, beer, chicken, sport on the TV and hot girls. Its usually not sleazy, and its a bloody good laugh. totally low key, no faffing about or heirs and graces. Which is great for me, being the uncouth idiot I am!

So far:

Three Hooters in Orlando: real mixture of ladies and service. you go from proper holiday style restaurants on international drive, to utter redneck shambles in the outer areas (namely near the airport).

Miami - no different to decent Florida standards. see also San Diego

Nashville - where old Hooters girls go to die

Chicago - total blue collar. no frills, great atmosphere, its a booze-and-chicken wings fans dream. Such a fun place, and in a really nice part of town (not!)

San Francisco - always my fave, basically cos it has a nice quotient of tattooed ladies present to fit in with the vibe of the city.

New York - total attitude. what you'd expect

San Diego - total tourist. massive restaurant, and totally geared for the holiday makers. the toilets are called "restrooms" not "crappers" like normal. its my next fave next to SF.

Las Vegas - we stayed at the Hotel, so it was a MEGA Hooters week. Hotel was brilliant, casino was small and workable (and cheap!), and the restaurant was massive again. However, take NYs attitude and x100. Out of all the waitresses and staff, we met two that were actually pleasent and a right laugh.

I didn't get to Los Angeles. Jon wouldn't let me! ;-)

that leaves me with my last stop - Hooters Singapore. I went there twice, mainly to end my holiday at a Hooters. But it was an odd one. Apart from the odd local, it was full of old fat english ex-pats. One afternoon, i caught the girls rehearsing a dance for whatever reason (Hooters in the US doesn't have Coyote Ugly style dancing). Weird. Plus - and this is the worst - THEY DIDN'T DO HOOTERS HOT SAUCE!!!

i must say, it was a great Hooters and the food/beer/service didn't disappoint. But i kinda wished the chain/franchise has taken into consideration that the place was in Singapore. Whats the point in a regular "CAUTION BLONDES THINKING" when not one of the girls is blonde! add to that all the US references, and it didn't make much sense. To me, it would have been far more chucklesome to have changed the typical Hooters references to ones that made sense in Singapore. The joke was, the calendars and the menus had photos of the local staff on them - so what not go the whole hog? It was a great place to hang out, is def one of my fave Hooters, but just didn't make sense as far as the chain was concerned.

i know its not very feminist of me (and i don't really care), but it is a chain that exsists on a big scale, and is as offensive as a cheerleader squad. A few people had asked for a write up of every Hooters i went to, and here it is.

HOOTERS - my fave "restaurant"!!!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Final week in Perth, then Singapore - days 97 - 103

It’s December! Perths summer is here. And man, it’s getting hot (30 degrees+ for the last week – hot for me anyway!). My final week is pretty low key – I’ve done most things I want to do, and I’m also resisting spending all my cash unnecessarily, esp as I’ve booked a trip to San Fran for New Year.

Most of the final week, I lay round the pool, sit in the garden in the sun reading, and try out practically every local pub that’s within walking distance! Weds (day #99) I head into Perth for the evening to see The Misfits @ Amplifier. I’ve not seen them for a while, and the last time wasn’t the best (the Misfits/Black Flag tour with Robo on drums). But I’m a sucker for those songs, so stump up $60 so I can get another gig in!

First port of call though, is the Generous Squire next door for some James Squire beers. Only found out about this place in the last week, so was looking forward to going to a proper James Squire pub. Same awesome selection of beers, and decent food. It wasn’t too busy on the weds, and I happily sat out on the veranda having a drink and reading my book. However, on Friday it seemed to turn into Tiger Tiger from Croydon. Majorly disappointed!

Amplifier is a cool venue – the bar area is half inside/half outside, had some decent beers and wasn’t too pricey. The venue part of Amp is behind the bar and is a third of the size, with a huge corner stage. Capacity can’t be more than 250 people at the very most! The gig is ace – Misfits manage to play a relatively coherent set, and for the most part I enjoy it, and am happily shouting along with the rest of the aussie punk dudes. However, the venue is SO LOUD! Far too loud for the size – which I guess is kinda cool, but the band sound a bit of a mess in places, and some of the song are difficult to make out. Get home at a decent hour, grabbing a cab immediately on exiting the venue. However, am a little hungover the next day due to all the Fat Yaks I’ve had!

Day #99 is my last Friday, and before I head back to Perth to meet Kelly and Alex, I finally make it to Perth Zoo. The weather today is sweltering, so most of the animals are hiding or asleep. It’s a tad disappointing, but it’s a cheap zoo, and I’m round it in a couple hours. Grab the cross river ferry into Perth (rather than getting the bus), which makes a nice change, and is really relaxing, then head to Durty Nellys to meet K&A.

Durty Nellys is a typical irish bar, but it does decent beer, the food is good, and its not too pricey again. Meet up with K&A (and a couple of the chaps I met at the Grim Fandango gig a few weeks ago), and get boozey for my last night. It’s a great evening, and its not even spoilt when some drunk twat outside the pub starts punching passers by and then gets dragged off by 4 police dudes on bikes!

Next stop is Amplifier again to finally see OFF! Who I have ben desperate to see since I started this trip in August. I’ve managed to miss every gig they done in a city I’m at by about a week, so was well happy when this date got announced. And man, they don’t disappoint! Loud, fast, angry, they deliver 17 songs in less than half an hour. And for an encore they start the set again and re-play the first few songs. Its exhilarating stuff, and I’ve not seen a band as full on as this since The Bronx show at The Peel in August.

It’s a great way to finish my last week in Perth. After the show, I hang out with the guys for a bit, then catch a cab back home. It had been brilliant seeing Kelly and Alex again, and thanks to them had done some fab stuff over the last 6 weeks. I look forward to seeing them again sometime next year.

My penultimate day was spent back at Tanyas, who was having a pool party/BBQ for my last day. Drank lots, swam lots, ate lots, but took the opportunity for an early night, as I had a early flight on Sunday. Again, was fab to catch up with everyone again for a last time, esp the kids.

Day #103, and I’m dropped off at the airport early by Mark, and I’m on a Quantas flight to Singapore. Must admit, they weren’t as good as my flight from Sydney. They managed to run out of food by the time they got to me, flippin ridiculous.

Got to Singapore, got through customs easily (nice friendly immigration dude), and grabbed a cab to my hotel. Cost of the cab was joke money (so cheap), and I was so happy when I checked in at the hotel (the Regis Park). It was awesome! So posh! It even had one of those weird frosted glass wall/mirrored bathrooms! Really glad I stumped the cash for my last hotel of the holiday!

It was pissing with rain at this point, but was still red hot, so once I unpacked, I headed over to Clarke Quay, which luckily was more or less opposite the hotel. Within minutes I’d managed to sniff out the Singapore Hooters! AMAZING!!! Nothing different than a normal Hooters, except none of the girls were blonde (all Asian!), did Tiger beer and nothing else, and worst of all, didn’t have Hooters hot sauce!!! Was still great though, and I had my usual wings and chips, and it was ridiculously cheap.

Spent the rest of the evening mooching around the area, popping into different bars, and having a Tiger or a Heineken. Bit gutted I’m back to drinking crap beer again, but whatever. Singapore was making my head spin. It was like Times Square, but on a much larger scale! I must say, I can’t wait to see it in the day so I can get my bearings, and am really looking forward to spending some time in this city.