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snippets of blackwings life

Big city life: Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok

The last part of my trip was all in all: big booming cities – After all those relaxing days in small to medium sized towns and cities, I visited some of the Asian mega cities: Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok. First I reached Kuala Lumpur by AirAsia from Vientiane – and stayed in the very same Guesthouse as in 2007. Kameleon Travellers lodge right next to Pudu Raya Bus terminal. As two years before, the place was OK, cheap and centrally located.

I took the 1.5 days in Kuala Lumpur to keep up with the latest changes in the city: Here a new skyscraper, there a new shopping mall… And was delighted again by the great Indian Food! I really advise people to get a real banana leaf curry! In KL I found that Sri Ganesha Curry restaurant at Jalan Pudu (right next to the Hindu temple, close to Pudu Raya terminal) is a pretty advisable place to get that. Besides that, I took quite much time for shopping some Sarong, Tea (BOH Teh rocks my world!) and so on. The most interesting visit was probably the National Gallery at Merdeka Square – Go there for an relaxing insight into Arts and Literature of Malaysia.

So finally I took a bus (Konsortium Bas) to Johor Bahru (cheaper to go there, than to Singapore directly) and hopped onto the SBS transit bus crossing the border. My dear friend Nick provided me a ride to “The Hive” backapckers, where I was intended to stay for the next few days. Later that day I took a ride to the Airport in order to welcome Julian, a friend of mine from Erlangen, who was gonna join me.

The next days, I spent on visiting former co-workers at Sulzer, eating a lot of delicious Singaporian/South-East Asian food and showing Julian around.
Finally we took a flight to Bangkok to stay there for the last few days. And so my vacation was over…

Hong Kong & Macau

Tiger AirwaysOn Thursday Oliver, a Avionics student of Hamburg, who is living also at NTU and me got onto a weekend-trip to Hong Kong and Macau. We used a Tiger Air budget flight to get to Macau on a 4hours flight from Changi and arrived in Macau around noon.

Blue sky and wonderful 23°C awaited us there (picture above is actually showing the foggy conditions on sunday) – and of course: Some new immigration stamps in the passport. Macau is a special administrative region of China, so it has own immigration and border control – Same situation as in Hong Kong and a result of the one-country-two-systems policy for those former colonies.

TurboJet Katamaran at Macau Ferry TerminalFrom the airport we used the shuttle bus to the ferry terminal and directly purchased a ticket via TurboJet (for 142hk$ – about 14 €) for the 50 minute ride to Hong Kong. So this visit to Macau, which lasted about 1 hour produced 2 new stamps in my passport and was probably the shortest “country visit” ever… After arriving at the Ferry Terminal in Hong Kong we had to complete immigration formalities again – And a new stamp for the passport got in. Using the MTR to get from the Sheung Wan Station to Tsim Sha Tsui we got over to Kowloon. We got an Octopus Card (150 hk$) in order to have convenient rides for the next few days. Close to the MTR station, at the Mirador Mansion building we found a cheap guest house paying about 11 € per person and night for a double room with aircon and bathroom.

Hong Kong Skyline at DawnSo we started running around the city and finally ended up around the Star Ferry peer at Kowloon which gave us a wonderful view of the really impressive skyline of Hong Kong Island… Hong Kong Skyline at NightSo we just sat down and enjoyed dusk. From minute to minute more of the countless skyscrapers illuminated gracefully giving the most overwhelming skyline I have ever seen…After some time we decided to grab some food. Some guys at NTU suggested to grad some Goose meat – so we did that and really enjoyed it. Hong Kong is quite pricy compared to other destinations in south-east Asia, expect almost European pricing!

We decided to spend Friday morning with walking around Hong Kong Island, especially in the area, where all the traditional chinese medicine and Some nice gadget?dried seafood shops are to be found. But first we had to get there: So we took the Star Ferry to get there – For the enormous price of 2.2hk$ we got an upper deck seat – lower deck would cost 1.7hk$. But spending the extra 5 cent… so what! We haven’t had breakfast yet, so we dropped into a wet-market around the western market area and got to the food-court upstairs heading for some traditional Dim Sum. Walking around the district was quite impressive: Many small shops selling almost every animal in dried or powdered form…

Because weather was quite nice, we decided to head all the way to Lantau in order to get to the famous 25meter Buddha statue uphill and enjoy a downhill hike. Compared to the Singapore MRT, the Hong Kong MTR is way faster – It only took us less than 30 minutes for the 34.8km from Central to Tung Chung (at Scenic view from LantauLantau, close to the new Airport). Compare this to the 70 minutes you need to get from Boon Lay to Changi! From enTung Chung we took the cable car up to the Tian Tan Buddha and walked down the about 8km trail back to the MTR. This hike features scenic views of Lantau Peak and the surrounding nature. This was actually the most surprising experience in Hong Kong – I had never expected to find so much quiet nature at a multi-million city like Hong Kong! If you have some spare time, maybe consider to do this trip. But be warned: There are pretty steep parts and I will be probably way less fun to do this in summer when you have 35°C and high humidity!

Hong Kong's Bank of China Building at NightBecause of the clear weather conditions we decided to get up to the famous Victoria Peak at Hong Kong Island and enjoy the skyline from there. View from Victoria PeakSo we walked from Hong Kong station to the lower peak tram station just right behind the Bank of China building… Just to warn you: The peak tram is a tourist attraction: But paying the about 2€ is worth it! At the peak you will get a crowded place, where many people are waiting to get the best spot for taking a photo – So be calm and take some time… Because we were not wanna to pay again for the pricy ride down the hill we decided to walk down and get back to the hostel.

Golfish on SaleAfter sleeping quite long, we walked around Kowloon in order to visit the Goldfish and Flower market. At the hostel we met some guys from Panama and England, so we decided to head for some brunch together. Finally we headed for some random hawker center around Temple Street and ordered a wide selection of stuff. Being refilled Oliver and me walked around this area. Because of the weekend it was really crowded… We spent the late afternoon with a doubledecker Tram-ride around Hong Kong Island.

On Sunday morning we headed for Macau. Unfortunately the weather was pretty bad: Foggy. We got to the Ferry Terminal and proceeded to Macau – Not worth mentioning that we got another huge load of stamps in our passport! Being a portugese colony for about 400 years made Macau a quite unique place – Ruinas de S. PaoloYou can find many historical buildings and feel almost like in Portugal… Interestingly most visitors of Hong Kong leave this nice spot out – St. Augustine's squareIn my opinion it is a good destination for a day-trip! You can see many churches and small streets and traditional Portogese pavement, especially around St. Augustine’s square. Quite funny: Portugese-style buildings and only Chinese people around! The Historic Centre of Macau is actually a World Heritage Site of Unesco… Site like the Ruins of St. Pauls Church or the Mount Fortress are really interesting to walk by.

After this sightseeing we spent some time in one of the countless casinos. Macau has legal gambling since the 1850s and is actually the oldest continous gambling destination worldwide. Gambling in Macau is a big deal… Chinese are crazy for gambling, but only there it is legal. In the casino we did not play ourselves, we just watched others loosing and winning big amounts of money.

Conclusion: Nice trip. Especially the Lantau excursion and the day in Macau were special. The skyline at night in unbeatable – But besides that: There are more fascinating cities around Asia than Hong Kong.

filed in on tour, singapore

One… eh… four nights in Bangkok

Royal Monestary of the Emerald BuddhaI just came back from my four-day trip to Bangkok. It was obviously nice and I really enjoyed it. After arriving at Saturday (late) afternoon, I took the Airport Bus to Kao San for 150 Baht and started looking around for a decent place to stay – Kao San Road at NightI finally ended up at the Sawasdee House at Soi Rambutree. There are quite many places around, but I chose this one, cause it offered rooms not facing the crowded street. So I paid 200 Baht per night and was happy. The guest house is just a stone-throw away from the well-known Kao San road with its many shops and nightlife locations. At one of the various street hawkers I had a decent vegetarian Phat Thai

The Mondrop at the Great PalaceOn the next morning I woke up quite early and decided to be an early bird and just walk down to the Grand Palace. This was a good decision, because I arrived there just around 08:30 when it opened – At a glanceAnd with the warm glazing sunlight of the rising sun, I had the chance to get some impressive pictures. Altogether I spent around 3 hours walking around the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha with all its surroundings – And it got more and more crowded, so I left. But: Paying the quite high admission fee of 250 Baht is definitively worth it. If you go Bangkok, be sure to visit this place.

Messy CablingSo it was already around noon, so I grabbed some curry (or “Kaeng” in Thai) from a street vendor. Despite some negotiation (or language) problems it finally ended up in a nice dry red chicken curry. Hot as hell. It virtually burned a hole in my stomachs – And my lips where suffering for hours… After this I decided to get down to Chinatown and got there via TukTuk. Chinatown is really crazy in Bangkok – But for my personal feeling, way too overcrowded… You have to visit it and see all those people selling all kinds of ju…aeh stuff…

Reclining BuddhaOn my way back I decided to hit the famous Wat PoWat Po at sunset (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), close to the Great Palace – Because it was already around sunset… And this time of the day gives best pictures! Wat Po is way less crowded than the Great Palace and it seems to be more spacy… After that I was quite smashed from all the walking and got back to the hostel to have a shower, grab some food and relax.

Day 2 in Bangkok started also early in the morning,Wat Arun because the couple next to my room decided to do… ehm, you know what. Never mind, because it was already around 0900, so I walked down to Chao Praya River and waited for the Chao Praya River BoatRiver-Boat Taxi in order to get to Wat Arun, the famous Temple of the Dawn. This temple is right at the riverside and accessable via the ThaThien-WatArun cross-ferry. Also worth visiting. After this I headed down to central pier and walked around the silom district… Because this was not 100% interesting (just shops), I jumped into Skytrain and got to Siam Square, which is supposed to be quite nice – for shopping :( I decided to leave out all the shopping malls (cause they probably offer the same junk as inWat Suthat Singapore – and everywhereBuddha statues at Wat Suthat else in to world) and head to “Jim Thompson’s House” – Some nice traditional Thai buildings in the middle of the City formerly owned by Thai-Silk-Guru Jim Thompson (who mysteriously disappaered in 1967 during a Cameron Highlands Trip…) – Quite nice to see, but only go there if you REALLY have to kill some time. There are way more interesting places to go. But when walking back to my guesthouse (yes, quite far away), I found my personal highlight of the day: The Wat Suthat temple right at the “Giant Swing” at Bamrung Muang road. Beautiful temple!

I started day 3 again quite early in the morning, Golden Mountbecause during the days before, the time before 11am was really nice, because it was quite cool. Unfortunately on this day, it turned out to be hazy – or smoggish. The air pollution in Bangkok is really bad – I only experienced the phenomenon of getting a clogged nose by pollution in Beijing before… I walked down, or better “up” to Wat Saket – The Golden Mount. You would get a nice view of the city from there – But there was SMOG! Anyway… I decided to get to the Dusit area and visit the Marble temple. The temple is made by white marbleThe Marble Temple and really unique. I proceeded to walk down to Thewet visiting a wet market and accidently dropping into a flower market – This confirms: Just grab a map and go somewhere – Leave stupid guidebooks like Lonely Planet at home! You will find the best places by just walking around with open eyes! I concluded the day at the Suan Lum Night Bazar at Lumpini – Got there via Subway from Hua Lamphong (Bangkok Railway Station) after using the River Taxi from Thewet to Ratchawong.

Conclusion: Bangkok was a good choice for visiting! Whatever?!Really cheap (just spent 2000 Baht besides the air ticket) and many nice historic places to see. ... yeah this Airport has problems!I visited about 23 Temples (“Wat WHAT?”) and walked of probably a marathon distance of 42km. One last thing: I flew using TigerAir from Singapore to the brand-new Suvarnabhumi Airport way outside of Bangkok. The were many rumors about the airport having many problems, such as a broken runway and miss-organization. Yes, this is true, but I spotted the main problem… See the pic :)

filed in on tour, singapore

Last day at Sulzer

Sulzer Chemtech at SingaporeToday was my last day at work during my internship at Sulzer Chemtech, Singapore. It was a very nice working experience and I really appreciate the excellent working perspective – I had interesting projects and the possiblity to gain a lot of knowledge.

Food at Lau Pa Sat Hawker CenterA few friends of mine joined me for a Dinner at the famous La Pau Sat Hawker Center close to Raffles Place MRT Station . We had the whole range of nice stuff starting from Satay and ending at Stingray. Excellent food! I especially liked the Oyster Omelett and the superb Mee goreng. This place is of course a little more touristic and expensive (because it is in the middle of the central business district), but the food there is worth paying for it!

So tomorrow I’m heading for Bangkok – So be prepared for a trip summary on Wednesday :)

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Temple & mosque tour around Little India, Arab Street and Bugis

As it is my last weekend I decided to get on a walk for some sights I left out: Stuff like famous temples, churches and whatsoever. But first of all, I started my day at City Hall area in order to catch some Myanmar food at Peninsula Plaza. So I walked around that area afterwars but it started raining quite heavy so I decided to hit MRT and get to Farrer Park at Little India.

Gate of Srinivasa temple at Serangoon Road Surprisingly here, just about 3km from City Hall there was partially cloudy sky… So I walked down to the famous Sri Sirinivasa Perumal temple at Serangoon Road with its impressive gate and nice interieur. Nice to look at, but not for a long stay. After getting a Lassi at Tekka Market I proceeded to Waterloo Street in order to see the Kuan Yin and Sri Krishnan Temple. The Kuan Yin one was closed due to maintenance, but the Sri Krishnan one was open – and it is definitively worth to go there! Full of scultures and colorful paintaings this temple is probably the most “packed” one in Singapore.

To conclude this day I walked down to Arab street and had a tradtional tea. I was originally intended to catch some Muslim food in Kampong Glam, but most street restaurants were closed so I got back to bugis and had some Nasi Lemak with Chicken.

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Geylang district

This weekend was actually the last complete one that I spend in Singapore – because the upcoming Friday is my last working day and afterwards I will do trips around. So I used this weekend to do all the stuff in Singapore, that I forgot or left out. I woke up quite late on Saturday, because I was at a barbecue with co-workers on Friday. This was a lot of fun although it was raining like hell – Maybe this was the reason, why we had so much fun.

Burmese temple as seen from a chinese templeThe weather on Saturday was just marginally better – cloudy, but the rain died down. So I decided to head for MRT in order to get to Geylang district. After reaching at Paya Lebar station I walked back alongside the MRT tracks, cause I specced some nice temples rightby. A nice burmese-style Hindu temple right next to a chinese-style Buddha temple. Especially the Hindu temple is worth visiting – It was the only temple of this style I saw in Singapore. If you wanna visit them, go to Geylang East Av. 2.

DuriansAfterwards I walked down to Geylang road. The Geylang serai is one of the legal red-light districts in Singapore – But compared to red-light districts like in Amsterdam or Hamburg it seems more like a regular relaxed suburban street with traditional chinese two-storey houses…Have you been stoned? More interesting were the quite many Durian fruit stands along the road – You could smell it easily from blocks away! I proceeded walking down Haig Road until reaching Mountbatten Road in order to find some food. I finally got into some Malay restaurant ordering Laksa – Mostly because this restaurant had a long waiting queue. While walking along I saw this pretty funny “Have you been stoned?” ad of a stone-grill restaurant… Finally I walked back on Joo Chiat Road back to Geylang Road. This road is full of old chinese house which are nicely restored. When walking back to the MRT I dropped into the Geylang Serai market, which is full of excellent food-stalls, fruit and vegetable stands. So I got some Pisang Goreng (Malay style fried bananas) and some Mango pudding. At the market I also got a load of Mandarin oranges – very tiny ones and really really sweet. Right now they are sold everywhere – because they are a traditional give-away for Chinese New Year which is in 3 weeks of time. It seems like everybody around here is going crazy because of this – E

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Singapore Zoo

Orang UtansArgh. Another cloudy Saturday! But better than a rainy one… So I got myself ready for this weekend’s highlight: Getting to the famous Singapore Zoo. So I took MRT – a long ride from Boon Lay… First East-West-Line to Jurong East, then the North-South-Line up to Ang Mo Kio, which takes about 1 hour. To get to the Zoo, I jumped onto a 138 bus. When I arrived at Ang Mo Kio, a thunderstorm started, but when I reached Zoo it was already over – but cloudy conditions and high humidity stayed all day. So the photos are not that colorful, because of the diffuse light situation…
White tiger Flashed! Admission to the Zoo is quite expensive, but your 15 s$ are well invested money – You get a view of the most stunning Zoo I’ve ever seen! It is just more interesting to watch monkeys jumping around, when the surrounding vegetation is tropical. You get a nice view of a huge number of tropical animals in their natural habitat. I especially liked the rainforest hall, where countless butterflies and other animal where around. It was also nice to see white tigers and the working elephant’s show, where local mahouts show the working performance of huge asian elephants.

Aircon ShelterOne thing at the Zoo made me really smiling… Everywhere around the Zoo, there were so called: “Air-con shelters” – Little pavilions with air conditioning, where sweating tourists can get some rest from the tropical temperatures. One thing at the Zoo really made me mad: Charging 2s$ for a 0.5l of water is just not fair… But some friends told me, so I was prepared – Har!

Food with hall-matesAfterwards I met with some of my Singaporian hall-mates in order to have some nice food at the Salita Area. So Nick & Danny took me to some very nice restaurant, where we had a splurge menu of superb Hainanese specialties, such as the (in Singapore omni-present) Chicken Rice. After that we went to a nearby Hawker Centre for dessert. We enjoyed Ice Kachang and some other stuff.

Update: Many people keep me asking for more photos… So I put some more pics at flickr. So here is why my private gallery has still no pics: Uploading takes virtually forever – I get only some 4kb/s since this Taiwan Earthquake slowed down the net. So be patient. There will be a huge load of pics after I’m back – and probably also a presentation.

filed in on tour, singapore

Friday night at Marina Bay

Singapore Skyline as seen from EsplanadeAnother week at work passed by really fast – probably cause I was quite busy. Friday after work I decided to get to the city center in order to catch some food. But when I was sitting in MRT the cloudy sky got more and more blue, so I decided to get down to Esplanade at Marina Bay in order to get some nice sunset pics of the Singapore Skyline… I was quite lucky I think :)

Afterwards I listened to some of the Live Bands performing at the outdoor stage of the Esplanade. The punk music was quite nice and it was quite funny watching all these brave pseudo-punk sitting there listening…

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A weekend in Bintan, Indonesia

Blue patches I just came back from a chill-out weekend in Bintan Island, Indonesia. Together with Peter, Pascal, Marc, Timo & Wiebke I got to this nearby “resort-island” on an all-inclusive trip to a 4 star resort. Because it is off-peak time right now, this trip was quite cheap. Bintan Island is just on the other side of the strait of Singapore and besides Batam the gateway from Singapore to Indonesia. It is just one hour by speed-catamaran.
Cloudy Beachview We reached the resort around noon and unfortunately it was raining. Of course. Because it is not only off-peak time, but also monsoon time. Argh. But it was around 28C, so we decided to get into the pool anyway. This was actually a quite nice decision, because later on it stopped raining and the wind dropped down so we spent the whole afternoon at the beach. OK, it was cloudy – But the beach is really nice. Fine sand and nice scenic view – But with blue sky and bright sunlight… Time to stop thinking about that – Right now most people in Europe suffer from bad weather, so I do not complain.

After a splurge brunch at Sunday morning we had no chance to get out because it was raining really hard – So we started playing cards, which was really a lot of fun. It did not stop raining until we got back to Singapore in the late afternoon, but this did not matter at all. It was a really relaxing and enjoyable weekend – even with rain most of the time.

filed in on tour, singapore

Halftime – Planning the second half.

Time is running fast, really fast. Just today, it is half-time of my time overseas. Some people asked my, at what time I’ll be back, so here are the brief details:

  • Flight back to Germany: Tue 20.3.2007
  • Back to Erlangen: Probably Sat 24.3.2007

Actually my internship is also over quite soon – Only about 4 weeks are left! After the attachment is finished, I have the huge amount of 6 weeks left, which is available for traveling around South-East Asia. Quite many people asked me, what will be on my schedule for that time – So here is an overview:

In February, I’ll do some multi-day trips to destinations such as:

Then it is time for Chinese New Year – So I’ll be back at Singapore to celebrate this with friends. So at the 22.2.07 I’ll head for a backpacking trip around Malaysia. Although no detailed plans are done (and never will – Because this is subject to daily mood and weather), I plan to visit the following places (partially visualized at the map).

To summarize: Getting around the East Coast of west Malaysia starting in the very south to the very north and then get back via Cameron Highlands and Kuala Lumpur.

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