My Travel Map

My Travel Map

24 May 2006

Singapore...

Singapore...the world's marketplace and the west's gateway to Asia

Parliament House with City Hall in the background (dome). It is hard to believe that this is such a small nation. Singapore is the second most densely populated country in the world after Monaco. It's population is 4 million and it is a true city-state. For those of you that do not know, Singapore is a small island at the very bottom of the Thai-Malay peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is also one degree above the equator, making the humidity here outrageous!

The famous Raffles Hotel. This old building is the temporary home to the most wealthy and luxurious travelers to Singapore...which is very evident by the car park in front: a circular ring of vehicles that all cost more than a large, American home. Raffles is also famous for inventing the Singapore Sling, a refreshing, mixed drink.

The Merlion...the lion is the symbol of the city. There is a plaque near here with a lovely story explaining how the merlion reresents how so many diferent people can come together on the island and prosper...which they have done quite well. Singapore is an extremely wealthy nation. The government is in control of almost everything, and the whole country is run like a corporation. The people suffer slightly from this in the area of personal freedoms, but from what I have seen so far, they don't mind at all and are quite happy. Last month, for instance, the government did quite well with its investing and was able to give a S$400 cheque to every Singaporean citizen...I wouldn't complain too much about that. Also, for Singapore's brightest minds, they can attend school wherever they want around the world totally cost free thanks to the government...only trick is that they have to work for the government for 6 years when they are done...but from what I heard, if you get this privelege, you are set to go and stick in there. Brilliant ideas like this one are direct results of having the nations most intelligent people working government jobs....how interesting is that?!? Singapore is also highly westernized...English is one of the four national languages and most people speak it fluently. Because of this, Singapore would make a great starting point for anyone that wants to see Asia, but is a little too intimidated by some of the massive cultural and language diferences.

Yet another example of the wealth and amount of money here in Singapore...this massive complex is just one of the many massive hotel complexes in the city, all of which cater to the thousands of international business travelers. Singapore was historically, and still remains a massive international market. Everywhere you go here, there are malls and shops and stores and restaurants and promenades...it is a massive consumer market of both international and domestic buyers and sellers.

Street in Chinatown. There are four primary districts in Singapore: CBD (central business district), Orchard St. (tons and tons of shopping...I cannot accurately describe just how much shopping there is on this one street...let alone all of the city), Chinatown (famous historically for its gambling, brothels, and opium houses), and Little India. It is possible to walk from area to area, and if it weren't for the oppressive humidity, walking the city would be an absolute joy!

Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown. This is the oldest Hindu national monument in Singapore. I love how complex it is with all the incarnations of gods.

Freo...

I love this place...

AFL (Aussie Football League) game at Subiaco Stadium, Perth. This is a rugged sport...it is kind of a hybrid of soccer and rugby, and for those of you familiar with Irish football, it is very similar to that. Like rugby, the players have no pads at all and they hit each other full force at high speeds. Like soccer, a team scores by getting the ball through posts at the opponents end of the field. I'm pretty sure there are 18 players on each side! Lots of guys out on the field, which is massive by the way. That '50' line in the picture is a 50 meter (almost the same as 50 yards) distance marker from the center of the posts...note that you cannot even make out the 50 line on the other end of the field. It's a highly entertaining game and I've been hooked on it! I'm going to have to subscribe to Fox Sports World so that I can catch the odd game when I get home!


High St, one of Freo's main drags. Along here, you can find a ton of little shops like second hand bookstores, art galleries, and even an army surplus place!

Yes, they have beaches too...just the icing on the cake and another reason why Freo is one of my new favorite places in the world! This was my fist glimpse of the Indian Ocean. The water was chilly but crystal clear!

Building at Freo's city center

This was Market St, aka Cafe Strip. The street was lined with cafe's and bistros and bakeries...sooooooooooo awesome. Freo is often related to a Mediterranean town...if thats the case then I need to go to the Mediterranean! In the background, right before the tower, is Freo's main market. Inside were shops with goods from all over the world, tons of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, baked goods, and anything else you can think of too! I could easily be entertained all day just wandering the market and divulging in all the colors, smells, and tastes.

Beautiful B+B on one of the side streets between Market St. and Freo's massive park area. The courtyard behind the gate was amazing. I will definately stay there when I return later in life (later in life meaning earning more money, of course)

Yet another beautiful building in Freo...seriously, all the buildings in city center are like this...can anyone name the style???

This was actually taken in Alice, but it goes with the next two concerning Aussie skies

Sunset at the entrance to Fremantle Harbour

There is just something so different about the Australian sky...it seems so much bigger yet distant.

Perth, Fremantle and now...Singapore

Hey everybody, sorry it has been a while since my last post. I have had some trouble recently finding an internet place that will let me plug in my camera!
I'm currently in Singapore visiting a friend from uni, Rakhil. Rakhil is working here in Singapore now, and has been gracious enough to let me stay with him while I am here.
As for an update, I spent four days in Fremantle, which is a small city just outside of Perth on Australia's west coast. Fremantle was amazing; it is one of those places that just made me feel immediately at home. My first day there, I went to an Aussie rules football match to see the Fremantle (Freo) Dockers play against the Melbourne Kangaroos. Freo dominated the Kangaroos, which just heightened the atmosphere, since the locals really love their team.
Fremantle itself is a beautiful old port city. You will have to wait and see the pics of the buildings there, but the entire city center has streets lined with these short buildings made in this amazing Australian hybrid style. By hybrid, I mean that the buildings look like a combination of Victorian, Mediterranean and several other building styles. Anyway, the whole town is just stunningly beautiful and pleasant. The best part about it is the local lifestyle. They are right on the Indian Ocean, so there are beaches with this amazingly clear blue water; there are also tons and tons of cafes, bistros, used bookshops, art galleries, and various other really interesting shops. There are also two massive stall markets...genuine, local markets too. I wandered those for ages in the various shops...everything from a Tibetan goods store to a didgeridoo store that gives free lessons to anyone interested (and let me tell you those things are quite difficult to play). A lot of the people there lead this really bohemian lifestyle, which I love. It reminded me a lot of Boulde, Colorado; Fremantle is definately a place in which I could see myself living very happily.
Perth was nice too...I wandered around city center on one of my days there. However, my recommendation to anyone that goes there is this: Perth is worth checking out, but Fremantle is worth getting lost in.
So, when I get the chance to update with pictures, I will do so, and I will also write more about Singapore then. I'm learning a lot about this little island city-nation...and it is extremely interesting! More to come!

12 May 2006

Oz's Red Centre

The famous Ghan railroad at my stop in Alice Springs, Australia. Alice is right in the heart of Australia...the Red Centre as it is called here. And red it is indeed....the very sand that makes up the outback here is a bright red that is just amazing seen in dunes against the blue sky. The next group of pics are devoted to the last 5 days here where I was one of a group on a camping tour through this amazing region to see several of its wonders. The camping was incredible too...being in such a hostile environment and sleeping in swags (thick canvas bags) under the outback stars was indescribable. I have some great stories but I cant tell them all on here...if you really want to know...ask me when I get back!

Uluru...what we westerners once named Ayers Rock...it has since been changed back to its original Aboriginal name...the one they called it for tens of thousands of years before westerners ever saw it.

Uluru as seen from the road. Check out those contrasting colors...you truly cant take your eyes away from it in person. Uluru is one solid rock...the world's largest monolith. It is over 300 m (1000 ft) high above the surrounding ground and plunges over 6km (3.5 miles) down underground!!! One rock...not a bunch of rocks piled up...ONE rock.

Valley leading to a watering hole. When it rains, the rock totally changes in that the thing is covered with waterfalls that run down all the grooves in the massive rock...supposedly it is just as beautiful as seeing it in full daylight.

Beyond words...

The rock face was broken in certain spots revealing a porous...almost marrow like... interior. It really is like the rock is a living being. This pic also shows the amazing contrast of colors with the red, yellow, and blue.

Looking up one of the sides. The rock looks like the skin of some massive alien being...it is red (redder than the pic shows) and mottled...sooooo cool and surreal.

Ok, get out the magnifying glass because there are people on the Rock in this shot...on the second to highest ridge on the left of the rock you will see a white splotch...that is a person. There are also some on the way up. Despite being highly disrespectful and offensive to the Aboriginal religion...some visitors still climb the monolith. It's kind of like going to Japan and peeing on a Shinto shrine....needless to say I didn't climb it. The 9.4 km (6 mi) walk around the base was good enough for me.

Moon over the outback near Uluru

Even though everyone offered to take a pic for me...I had to take my now patented arms length portrait shot!

I couldn't stop taking pictures of this thing...it holds you in a trance, as if temporarily hypnotized and sent to another plane of consciousness, when you see it in person and you just want to capture that for everyone else.

The Rock glows red in the setting sun's light... it is so easy to understand how this monolith is so sacred to the Aboriginees.
We got pretty lucky with a nice, almost-full moon rising just before sunset...over Uluru too :)

Clouds at sunset over the outback

Join this with the next pic for a total panoramic view of Kata Tjuta...the other massive formation that, along with Uluru, make up the national park. Kata Tjuta was called The Olgas for a while by westerners, but recently, like Uluru, its official name has gone back to what the Aboriginees have been calling it for thousands of years.

Allign this pic on the side of the last pic and that is all of Kata Tjuta...which translates to "Many heads" from the native tongue. There are 37 of the massive "heads" in all.

Uluru seen from Kata Tjuta (from almost 50 km = 30 mi away!!!)...and to think that that is ONE SOLID ROCK!!! Mind boggling...
The Valley of the Winds walk at Kata Tjuta. As Neisha (our guide) describes it, "It's like something from Jurassic Park...you just expect to see a dinosaur walking down there in the valley"

More of Kata Tjuta...the highest of the mounds is over 500 m (1500 ft) high above the surrounding flatland. Another neat thing about them is, unlike Uluru, the mounds are like a cement in that they are formed from a bunch of smaller stones and sand that has been mixed up and dried. Looking at them up close you can see this hetergeneous mixture...and credit for this beautiful bit of nature can be given yet again to glaciers and their recession at the end of the last ice age...THANK YOU GLACIERS!!! Oh yea, and like Uluru, these masses go down 6 km (more than 3.5 miles) down into the earth!

This is the valley in the middle of Kata Tjuta, so standing here, one is totally surrounded by the massive red mounds. This is a very sacred spot for the Aboriginee men, and fortunately, unlike Uluru, it is no longer legal for visitors to climb the mounds.

How cool is this...so I have gone on a bit about how the blue sky, the red rocks and sand, and the yellow grass all contrast so amazingly well (better than the pics can show of course)...but around Kata Tjuta, you can even find rocks with all three of these colors in them!!! The red is expected, but yellow and blue...thats just unreal!!! Aboriginees in the area traded these rocks for use as chalk in rock paintings, and these rocks have been found at sites all over the continent even though the yellows and blues can only be found in Kata Tjuta...wild.
Me on the rock overhang lookout point at King's Canyon. This was the last day of the tour, and it was just as amazing as the other two! I wasn't expecting too much, but I was blown away by the landscape and scenery on this hike! In the middle is this fertile area where the water is protected from the sun by the veritcal canyon walls on either side. We went swimming in a water hole along the way...it was freezing but still a lot of fun! The whole day was just amazing and a great end to our tour. I made some great new friends on this 3 days of camping and hiking, and it was quite sad to see them go. We had a great time!

Looking back from the top of the canyon...those white dots in the top center are the various tour BUSSES!!! Just for a sense of scale of course.

Our awesome tour guide, Neisha, laying out on the rock overhang...a foot thick slice of rock hangoing out over about 1000 ft of air above the bottom of the canyon! It was so cool!!!

The crazy landscape of King's Canyon. All of these domes were formed from what was once a solid plane of sand...neat eh!?

Looking at the rock face across the canyon...note the size of the people in the tour group on the other side....yea...its big and there is absolutely nothing stopping you from plunging over the 300+ meter cliffs...and the ever present wind is a constant reminder of that too!

Some more of the crazy landscape of King's Canyon. It stretches as far as the eye can see with those little dome mounds of layered sandstone. As with many of the other places I have seen in the last few days, it is like being on an alien planet!

Oz's king brown snake, or mulga snake. One of the top five most deadly snakes in the world of course and found all over Oz. These guys can get up to 3 m (9 ft) long and are able to stand up to the height of most humans...that would be a nice little suprise to come across in the outback eh?? Fortunately, here, at the Alice Springs Reptile Center, I found out that most of Australia's deadly snakes have very small fangs! Long pants such as jeans often can save your life from the serpents deadly venom! One of the reasons that so many die from snake bites in Oz is because of the remoteness of most bites...but the crafty Aussies have come up with a solution: the Royal Flying Doctors...Dr's that can reach anywhere in the country by flying planes!!! Really cool (and great to know). Also good to know, right now most of the snakes in the country have gone into hibernation! That is why we didn't see any on our stay in the outback (thank you God). I did enjoy the various deadly specimens at the center though.

The Taipan: what snake experts reckon to be the most deadly snake in the world. They of course, are found in Oz as well.

A thorny devil. These lizards were incredible, and despite their name, they are really pleasant and timid. They are really really thorny though.

Me holding little Frank at the Kangaroo Rescue Center in Alice Springs. The amazing owner rescues kangaroo babies (joeys) from mothers that have been killed by cars and trucks on the highways. The joeys are often left alive inside the mother's pouch to starve, or sometimes worse, eaten alive by carrion birds. Many people in Australia nurse these kind of joeys back and then raise them to be released back into the bush. Amazing people...but I see the benefits. The kangaroos are soooooooo nice and as you can see, adorable beyond reason. Frank here is using his tail as a pacifier...how cute is that?!?! They are kept in sacks that work like the mother's pouch. Visitors to Alice can come in and see them at the rescue center. I'm addicted and will be returning every night that I have left here. I will also never eat kangaroo again either.

The three little guys get to hop around to stretch (and scratch) themselves every once in a while. I don't blame them after being in the "pouch" for hours on end...but when it was time to get back in they were very happy to do so (for the warmth mostly...or maybe just the lounging)...and it was about the cutest thing in the world; the owner holds the bag open at his knees...the joeys put their arms in and bend over, then they do this little summersault into the bag! It was adorable.