Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Swing through Singapore

With a few regrets, we flew North to Singapore from beautiful Palau Flores in Indonesia.  Finley had a friend who visited Singapore a few years ago, so he was a fountain of facts about this interesting city-state. It’s a very environmentally focused country with creative ways of disposing of trash and keeping its outputs carbon neutral. Despite its cosmopolitan, wealthy vibe, it’s basically a socialist system and 90% of residents live in government housing.  It’s exceptionally clean and very safe.  It’s also famously humid, and we frequently scurried into air conditioning for a cool-off.
 Colonial-era shop houses were everywhere.

Singapore’s amazing cloud forest biodome


Public transportation is excellent and traffic is very manageable.  Singapore has essentially regulated away the scooter hordes that plague other big cities in SE Asia--levying huge fees & taxes on scooters and motorcycles.

For a change of pace, we stayed in Wink Hostel, a cool backpacker destination with a few large family rooms.  The individual pods were a hit.

On our first day of exploring, we were met and shown around Little India and Arab-town by the wonderful Robin Smith, an expat Idahoan who sailed on the Wunderpus with us along with her husband Roland.  Robin and Roland have been living & working in Singapore for four years and love it.
 Little India with Robin leading the way

Do NOT mess with Godess Kali

this kid keeps photobombing me

Two Signapore Slings at the famous Raffles Hotel set us back about $60 U.S.  Ouch.  At least the bar was full of other tourists paying through the nose for spiked pineapple punch.

The Super Trees (Megan's favorite) were a cool attraction.

Super trees by day
Super trees at dusk


The Marina Bay Sands Hotel/Casino/Shopping Mall, which seems like it was visible from everywhere in Singapore, has a weird UFO/Ocean liner hat

When one does not feel like simply walking in the mall beneath the Marina Sands, one takes a hired boat.
Cool double helix bridge downtown

Requisite shot with the Singapore Merlion

River dining late to beat the heat


Monday, May 29, 2017

Our Incredible Liveaboard

As Megan already posts here, our three day sail on the Wunderpus was a magical experience.  Here are a few more of the incredible shots we took while snorkeling in and around Komodo National Park's pristine waters.

Blissed out in Bali

Blissed out in Bali
 (Catching up now that we're back on land)
After the intensity of Yogyakarta and Java, our week in Bali felt almost like a vacation.  It was about 15F cooler than Java both on the coast and in the mountains, so for the first time on the trip we weren’t drenched in sweat from dawn to dusk.  We weren’t gawked at like we had three head as on Javas. The insane traffic and seething human population was far less evident.  There was much more of a sense of art and culture . Indeed, the entry into Bali’s International Airport from the runway was framed by a huge, ornate, koi-filled pura, a Balinense Hindu temple.  There were digital displays reminding arrivals that they were in Bali and duty-free stores out the wazoo.  The bling stood in stark contrast to the outdated, tiny airport in Yogyakarta.  
Bali is partial to gigantic public art installations, such as the huge white statues of Hindu Gods and Heroes along the main highway leading out of the Denpasar Int’l Airport.   
 We started in trendy, upscale Ubud, where half the people we saw were Western tourists.  And half of those looked like they had just come off a fashion runway or a movie set.   Lots of beautiful boutiques selling local art and sculpture, but also a lot of International brands.  We counted five (!) Polo/Ralph Lauren shops.  Maybe Ralph’s frequent visitor and likes to see his name on the town?  We opted to stay in a villa in Jungjugan, one of the many rice-farming villages surrounding Ubud—turned out to be a good move.  Our villa was beautiful and quiet; Ubud is artsy and hip but very noisy and busy—subject to scooter-dominated, anything goes traffic like Java.  

Ubud Highlights included great food (Including excellent Indian at Ganesha Ek Sanskriti, and our first really good Tex-Mex in Asia at Taco Casa), and beautiful countryside featuring rice paddies and a popular waterfall.  

We also spent a morning at the Monkey Forest, which was an experience not for the faint of heart. Monkeys occupy a special place in Hindu mythology—the monkey God Hanuman once helped Rama (an incarnation of God) by dropping a mountain on his enemies. In the Monkey Forest a huge pura is dedicated to the monkeys which live in the forest surrounding it, which is now home to more hundreds of long tailed Macaques from five different family units.  There are conflicts between the families and the monkeys can be aggressive with one another and with humans. Fin took a nip on his shoulder from an unfriendly Macaque, and one big male decided Whit needed to see a display of his massive canines after Whit moved his tail off his foot.  No harm done, but the monkeys aren’t exactly house pets.