Tag Archives: abroad

Singapore: the first 48 hours

22 Oct

My trip to Singapore crept up on me. I booked the flight in February when Swiss had a sale on and a couldn’t resist a bargain. I admit I hadn’t done as much research for this trip and I was feeling a bit nervous about it.

It didn’t get off to the best of starts. For a couple of weeks, I have been suffering from an upset stomach off and on and my body decided it would be funny to see how Lyndsay would deal with this on a 12 hour flight to Asia.

Luckily, if I go anywhere further than the local supermarket, I always take my passport, toothbrush and Imodium. This is the first time I have had to use the latter.

When we landed and I managed to get to the hotel via public transport, I was looking forward to relaxing and lying near to a toilet that I didn’t have to share with 200 other people. That didn’t go to plan.

The hotel declined my credit card three times. The receptionist was really rude and demanded payment immediately and said it must be my credit limit and that’s why my card provider have declined it blah blah blah. I asked for them to get my credit card company on the phone so I could talk to them. The nice man at the credit card company assured me that they had done nothing of the sort. The issue was something from the hotel‘s side. Nasty hotel receptionist denied this and finally the payment went through (when he used another machine).

After that I popped to the supermarket for water and something plain to eat and got lost in the shopping complex! These things are massive. I had been walking around for ages and everything just looked the same. I had to admit defeat and asked the customer information desk how to get back. That was enough for one day. I went to bed hoping the next day would be better.

No such luck. I had booked on a bike tour of the city. These are normally a great way to orientate yourself in a city and to ask a local about what life is like. Again I struggled to find the meeting point and when I finally got there, I was the only one who had turned up. I offered to come back on Sunday because I thoughtcrime would be more fun to be with others and not just alone with the group leader.

Having no idea what to do, I picked up a MRT map (subway) and decided to head for the Botanical Gardens. The Gardens are incredible. Although they are primarily a place for difference plants to be showcased, they are a huge outdoor space which is utilised by locals for yoga and meditation. An interesting mix!

The Gardens are home to the National Orchid Gardens, which are well worth the 5 dollar entrance fee. It was really tranquil and lovely to see do many varieties of my favourite flowers.

And then the Heavens opened. Being from the North West of England, I know about rain more than most. Singapore rain is something else. Luckily I did have an umbrella with me but it didn’t help too much. I was soaked to the skin. I headed back to the hotel to use the gym while the storm passed.

Early afternoon the weather was much better and I headed out to explore. A friend had recommended a place to eat in Little India, so I headed there.

The eating experience was more of a challenge if I’m honest. The restaurant has a „Wall of Fame“. If you eat a curry of a certain spice strength without joghurt based accompaniments or drinks, they give you a clothes peg to write you name on so hang on the wall. My friend had tried this on his trip to Singapore but failed miserably. I managed to complete the challenge and get my very own peg. I think I could have possibly eaten a few levels hotter, but no one likes a show off, do they? Based on my problems 24 hours before, I feel like my achievement is in the epic category. I had a few celebratory drinks which meant the bill was pretty hefty. Oh well, I’m on holiday.

After that I wandered around Chinatown for a bit and then went to Marina Bay Sands and walked back to the hotel. The views are simply stunning and more spectacular than photos can ever convey.

The next day it was Bike Tour take 2! This time the tour was on. We biked for about 20 km over 4 hours with a stop for coffee and refreshments. The tour was interesting. We went through the Financial district and Chinatown. In Chinatown we went to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. I hadn’t visited this the previous evening. The temple is almost completely made out of gold. The security is tight because of this. On the top floor is a relic which is meant to be the tooth of Buddha. All I can say if that was Buddha‘s tooth, his dentist bills must have cost a small fortune. It was huge. It was interesting to see. It’s can be hard to understand relics from the point of view of a non-believer but it obviously holds a deep meaning for followers of this faith.

Later we went by Marina Bay Sands, but we did a different route to the one I had done. Then we went to the hipster district which is an interesting mix of Middle Eastern cultures and has a huge mosque in the middle of it. There are so many faiths in Singapore and there seems to be very little racial tension or discrimination. I wonder what their secret is?

We stopped for coffee and were treated to some staple breakfast foods, which were yummy. We needed the energy for the next part. We actually road down the Singapore Formula 1 track! It was such a surprise. I think I was by far the most excited by this. It takes 4 months to put up the infrastructure and stands and 3 months to take it down. Incredible stuff.

After the tour, I had a swim in the hotel pool to cool down and I decided to go back to Chinatown. The leader of the bike tour had recommend a place to eat which was a hawker stall but had been awarded a Michelin star. Cheap Michelin started food? I was in! Only I wasn’t. I found the place and it was closed. I will have to go back another time. I had dumplings from another stall instead which were cheap and delicious. I then tried a Singapore Craft Beer called Simply Blonde. It cost about half the price of Buddha’s 6 monthly check-up.

I headed out to the Zoo for the Night Safari: the world first nocturnal animal park. It’s a good idea because not so many animals are active during the day when most zoos are open. It took a long time to get there, about 1 and a half hours. Although I had booked a ticket for 9.15pm admission, I managed to get in an hour earlier. I was glad of this because I was worried about missing public transport home.

The safari itself was good. We saw all of the animals apart from the wolves who were hiding somewhere. What was annoying was people who were talking the whole way through (not the thing to do on safari) and people using flashes on their phones to take pictures. I didn’t managed to get any photos because we were on a moving tram. As I wasn’t using the flash, I was trying to take a picture with the aperture open to let in more light. However, the camera needs to be completely still or the image is blurred. This was a shame but I did managed to see some cool animals up front! I managed to get the public bus home and it only cost me 1 dollar 27!

What’s in a name?

16 Nov

In case you were wondering how I came to name my blog ourgirlinzurich, it is a reworking of the title of the Graham Greene novel Our Man in Havana. It is a satirical work which pokes fun at the intelligence services, especially the British MI6. It is a very good book, if you haven’t read it. Greene also wrote famous works, such as Brighton Rock and The Quiet American, which I think were both made into films. Our Man in Havana also has a film version.

images

I guess I used this title as opposed to any other because, in a strange kind of way, I feel like my move abroad was a bit like going undercover and into the unknown and the description of the language barrier in the book, if I remember correctly, is also apt. At one time I was actually thinking about applying for a job at MI6 (or was it MI5, I can never remember the difference) but I didn’t even make the application because I didn’t make the selection criteria.

It turns out that a) I am too tall for a woman (meaning taller than average) and b) I have blue eyes (only about 10% of the population have blue eyes) and this would mean that I would be too memorable and, therefore, not suitable for tasks such as surveillance. I did want to argue that I can talk to someone for hours at a party and 5 minutes later the same person would have difficulty in picking me out in a line up but it probably wasn’t worth the effort.

What I have only just found out (isn’t Google amazing?) is that Graham Greene died and is buried in the French speaking part of Switzerland. So it would seem that my reworking of his book title has somehow come full circle.

There are a surprising number of famous people who have died and are buried in Switzerland. Charlie Chaplin and Audrey Hepburn are also buried in the French speaking part of Switzerland.

On one of many of my to-do lists is to visit the grave of James Joyce, who lived and died in Zurich and is buried at Fluntern Cemetery. It is in the centre of the city and I know exactly where it is but it feels a bit weird to go and visit the grave of someone that you never met seems to be a bit morbid. But I think in some sort of strange way, if I do go and visit the grave I might be inspired to read Ulysses finally. Because this is something else that is on a to-do list somewhere…

Article about expats moving home

24 Oct

I read this article on BBC news website today and, although I have no plans about moving back to the UK, I can fully imagine that it would be difficult to leave Switzerland and move.

Over the years I have read a few articles that document this problem that expats face when moving home. To begin with, it seems like a strange concept. It makes sense that emigrating to another country and all the would be difficult with settling in, language barriers and other problems which I have mentioned in passing in some of my other posts but it does seem silly to think that moving back to your home country would prevent similar problems. This is the culture you were brought up in so how could it possibly be hard to go back.

If I think about moving back one of the problems (apart from all of the benefits and advantages that I would lose from moving) that springs to mind would be friendships. I am still in contact with friends from home but inevitably, due to distance and time, the nature of some of these friendships has completely changed. I don’t mean this as anyone’s fault but just physically not being in the same country as someone does has an impact on your relationship. I noticed in the first months and years that relationships had fundamentally changed. People mentioned new people that were now part of the friendship group and had stories that I didn’t understand and I felt strangely excluded from the conversation. Now four years on, friends have moved, had babies etc and I can imagine that things would be different because of how completely they have changed.

I also recognise that my personality has changed and the person that I am today is not who I was when I sat nervously in Manchester airport clutching a one-way ticket. Of course, I would have changed if I had stayed in the UK and never made the decision to leave. I believe in the phrase that travel broadens the mindand if merely travelling to a place broadens the mind, then living somewhere abroad also transforms the mind but in a way that is far more than broadening; though I can’t quite think of the way to describe it.