Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Singapore one out for my homies...but don't spill anything on the floor.

As a part of Brian's visa adventures he had to leave the country and go to an Indonesian Embassy to complete the process. We took that as opportunity to visit the beautiful country of Singapore - also known as the most sterile place on earth! Like Disneyland, but without the mascots.

Day time...
Night time!!!!!
Singapore is an interesting place. For one thing, everything is named "Raffles". Do they particularly love giving away gift baskets in exchange for tickets at 1 dollar a pop? Unfortunately, no. Stamford Raffles is better known as the founder of Singapore. Like most stories of Europeans stealing founding Asian/African countries, the saga goes a little something like this:

British dude is like "Hey this looks like a good place for me to make some money because your gorgeous port is a nice area for ships to come in. I can trade and stuff and you can all work for me. I declare this land mine!" 

So now, because of Raffles' great vision of trade, Singapore is one of the most metropolitan countries and has become the South East Asian hub of most multinational businesses. Most people are of Chinese or Malay descent with several handfuls of Australians and Europeans thrown in the mix. The main language is English, with Mandarin and Malay following.

In fairness, old Raffles was apparently a pretty good British dude. While most of the islands in the area were heavily governed by the Dutch, Raffles used his smooth talking skills and negotiating prowess to give the locals more governing power themselves whilst still being declared a British Colony. Oh, except for that whole racial segregation thing that was all the rage in the late 19th century, which now gives us the opportunity to visit landmark areas such as Little India.

It was Diwali when we visited so Little India was all decked out. We got to go inside a gorgeous Hindu temple with a number of Gods represented at various altars inside. If someone of the Hindu faith is able to share with us who they are and what they represent, we would love to know!

Indians know how to decorate like what?!

Sacred cows!

This one intrigued me the most. Anyone?

One of my Esprit Cohorts, Pam, who is originally from Singapore took us on a tour and stopped by this amazing Chinese Temple built in southern Chinese style. You can't tell, but the entire support beam structure is interlocking - no nails, bolts or nothing. Just pure ingenuity and maybe some Chuck Norris.

You know I don't speak Spanish.
Two warriors or guardians are painted on each set of doors to scare away any evil stuff.
Paying respects with incense.
Teaching Brian about my peeps.
Being a new country that sort of sprung up out of nowhere, Singapore is incredibly strict. It is the cleanest place I've ever been, and for good reason. They don't want you messing up their beautiful country. For example chewing gum is illegal. If you even get caught chewing gum, you may be fined. The rationale is that if you chew gum, you're likely to spit it out and that shit will stick like the dickens onto concrete (as anyone in the US knows). Funnily enough though, prostitution is legal and there is an entire red light district where you can buy an evening with a pretty lady.

Numbered for your convenience
The two red lanterns mean "come on in".
This one even has advertisements.
So basically you can sell your body for money but can't freshen your breath after a tasty lunch. And since we've stumbled into the subject of the world's oldest profession, we'll address another aspect of Singapore that seems to be a head-scratcher: same-sex rights, or more specifically lack thereof. Now, this isn't your typical gay marriage question like in the US. Oh no. In Singapore they take it to another level. Being the efficient, controlled society they are, Singapore gets specific.

Borrowing from our friend Wikipedia: After the exhaustive Penal Code review in 2007, oral and anal sex were legalised for heterosexuals and female homosexuals only. So prior to 2007, it was technically illegal for anyone, married, straight, single, gay, whatever, to engage in any sexual activity outside of the good old fashioned baby making process. But since 2007 they've decided to adopt a social policy approved by the Almost Politically Correct Redneck meme:

Regardless of your political or other beliefs, this is a bit silly. Non-traditional sex is ok if it's heterosexual, or if it's two women? Really? Come on Singapore, seriously. You have an entire section of town dedicated to legal prostitution, but a couple dudes having some adult time is a no-no? 

Ok, enough with the soapbox. Can you believe the size of the horns on this guy? They're ridiculous!
Yep, you seem to be just the right size.
Back to the wonders of Singapore: the subway. Oh the subway - it's not like any other subway you'd see in the US. No homeless people, no struggling musicians, no trash, no grafitti.  And you can't eat or drink anything on it so it stays super clean. It's fantabulous!

I ride the SMRT, S-M-R-T.
Those yellow lines direct traffic. Seriously.
The windows are so clean you can see the nose hairs on the guy sitting across from us.
A large chunk of Singapore actually sits on reclaimed land. In fact most of the "glitzy" part of Singapore is on this reclaimed area, most notably, the Marina Bay Sands and it's GLORIOUS shopping center and view of the bay. We had the chance to have dinner at the Ku De Ta - a fancy-pants restaurant at the top of the casino with my friend and Esprit cohort Angelo and his lovely lady Desiree.

Fancy-pants hotel, casino, bars, and restaurants
Hey girl.
It's like an ad for the UN. If the UN had ads...

The magic of panoramic shots.
Of course, we spent most of the time doing other touristy stuff like going to the night safari, the aquarium, the Singapore Flyer, and walking around the bay.

Our wonderful tour guide, Pam!
Indonesians are so talented
Fire breathing dancers at the night safari
Singapore Sling!
Pink dolphins!!!
Shark feeding
My happy place!
The lotus-shaped museum
The helix pedestrian bridge.
Marina Bay Sands all prettied for the night.
View from the top of the Singapore Flyer.

In the flyer
It's like we like each other.

Overall, Singapore is a very beautiful and nice place. It's a huge contrast from Jakarta so it was nice to get away and be able to breath clean air and obey traffic laws for a week. But as we noted, although it was nice to be in a place with so little chaos and so much order, there is such a thing as too much order.

So, that's our take on Singapore. We'll def be back for some getaway time despite the lack of gum.

As always, much love from Jakarta!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Leavin' on a morning bus to Bogor

Selamat Hari Raya Idul Adha! Which means,  "Happy Feast of the Sacrifice" day! Last weekend was Idul Adha*, one of the many observed Muslim holidays here in Jakarta that comes with a grand prize of a day off work. So we took advantage by going on our first weekend getaway south of Bogor to a lovely place called Javana Spa.

Tucked away in the mountains with clean air and everything!
Man made lake, little kids can go fishing here.
Neato shot of the mountain "steam"

The spa is nestled high in the mountains far away from the major cities and required traveling on a zig zaggy road through a local village which was half the fun of getting to our destination. Some of the coolest scenery was seen from the bus and felt like a glance back in time. I imagine this is what most of the Indonesia Archipelago looked like for hundreds and thousands of years before modernization. Cool to see that it still exists. 
Rice paddies
Gorgeous view on the drive up, rice fields.
We had a 3 day two night package, complete with spa treatments, all meals, a few exercise classes and hikes to waterfalls! These aren't your dry area waterfalls. This is straight up jungle style. Watch as I thrash my way through the labyrinth of lush, dense, tropical danger! 

I know you feared for my life for a minute, as you rightfully should have. Not to worry, we made it just in time for some awesome waterfall posing.

I WILL go chasing waterfalls, thank you very much.

The best part about getting away was the clean air and the views. I think we'd forgotten how nice it was to be able to sit outside and take in a breath of fresh air that isn't tainted by smoke and exhaust fumes.  Reading a book in the sun light with a nice cool breeze.
Look ma! I'm reading without hands!
For once, it's not the smoke from burning trash! Yay!
It was the perfect short getaway, save for Brian getting sick. His poor Anglo stomach still hasn't adjusted too well to the spices, sticks, and stones we Asians put in all of our food. He traded in eating time for photo ops

Brian's artistic rain-on-a-chain shot

We wear lululemon and we approve this message!
These jerks always knew when it was lunch time.

*Super Asterisk Lesson Time!
What is Idul Adha? The wikipediamachine says it is "an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to honour the willingness of the prophet ʾIbrāhīm (Abraham) to sacrifice his young first-born son Ismā'īl (Ishmael)a as an act of submission toGod's command and his son's acceptance to being sacrificed, before God intervened to provide Abraham with a ram to sacrifice instead". 

In Indonesia, to honor Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his own son for God, Muslims will sacrifice a goat and distribute the meat to all the poor people living in nearby kampungs. Not without a 14 hour prayer marathon though! Yes, 14 hours of loud speaker prayer. I actually had to pull out my ear plugs for the first time - let me tell you, I've never loved two squishy little rubbery foam pieces more in my life. 

We could actually observe a few of these rituals taking place in the village area across from our apartment and by the time we made it into Bogor, most of the butchering and meat distribution had already taken place. Sharing wealth with the poor here is commonplace. People just accept it as part of their responsibility to help those less fortunate. 

Of course, since I'm not all tied up with wedding theme colors and glitter on the mind now, I have time to be introspective and preachy, so here goes. I'm familiar with the story of Abraham as I'm sure most people who've had any religion in their lives. Would it surprise you to know that this particular story is honored in the following:
  • Judaism
  • Christianity
  • Mandaeism
  • Baha'i Faith
  • Islam
Even if it is not honored or celebrated in your particular religion there is a good chance you might have heard the story. Funniest thing, religion. For as long as the people have practiced religion, there have been religious wars. Isn't it ironic though that for the most part many religions have the same roots and beliefs in the sames stories?

Any hooooo, that's your deep thought for the day. Now here's are more cool photos of alternative transportation in Indonesia.
Seat belts = the will to not get flung off the pick-up.
Not quite sure where these were headed, but they were filled with young teenagers.
Delman - traditional Indonesia Horse drawn carriage...and what appears to be a light saber.
Look Diana! 4 People on a motorbike!  - standard sight in Indonesia. Efficiency.

Expat Love.