Friday, November 21, 2008

Week-end is coming!!

Hi All,

I haven't posted all week, but it's just because we're quite busy. Everything is fine. We enjoyed time with Ting's sister this week as her parents are away in Malaysia. We took her to see Chihuahua last night. Not my favourite film, but the youngest of us enjoyed it I think, and that's what matters right?

Nothing much planned this week-end. Just lazing and booking the hotel for the wedding. We finally came to an arrangement that suits us. But we have to fill the room up so don't fail on us on the 15/08/2009! I know the invitations are not sent yet, but it doesn't mean we're cancelling. We're just disorganised.

That's all folks!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Week-end in Melaka!

You might have seen the pics on Picasa, (if not you can have a look: follow the link on the right), so I guess it's time to tell you about our week-end in Melaka.

As a back ground for our French readers, Melaka is a city about 240 Km north of Singapore. So it's in Malaysia, on the west coast.

We followed this route by bus to reach.

View Larger Map

The bus was really nice. Not one of these old kind with wooden seats you see in American movies, but the business class kind, with large seats and personal LCD screen, unfortunately nothing was shown on them... It took about 3 hours to reach.

When we arrived we were surprised to see that the city was tiny. It used to be the biggest merchant harbour of south east Asia, but that was before Singapore came out of swamps. Now it's just a little touristic town with destroyed monuments and so many food places you couldn't try them all if you stayed a year.

Our hotel was quite nice, the Equatorial it's called. Four swimming pools (I counted only one) a comfortable room with a quite nice view as you can see:

As soon as we reached we went on to discover the town.

As we walked out of the hotel we were called by the trishaw owners. These bikes with a little carriage all decorated nicely with flowers during the day, and at nights they manage to light up the whole city. Although Ting's Dad had advised we took a stroll with one of them, we never got round to it. All the tourist on them seemed to have good fun, mixed with fear as cars were whisking by at rather high speeds.

We walked up to the monument of Melaka, it's called "A famoso". It used to be a huge wall that was supposed to protect from foreign intruders... When you see what's left of it you wonder who would be kept out with that

Then up the stairs to St Paul's cathedral. It's got no roof, no doors, nothing inside. Oh yeah, the open grave of St Francis. So we went down the hill again.

At the bottom of the hill we found the Sultan's Palace.
We paid to go in, only to discover that it was a replica of the real palace that was destroyed I can't remember when. Inside was quite interesting, the birth of the city of Melaka: a guy fleeing from Indonesia, then Singapore because he had killed some other guy fell asleep under a tree (a Melaka tree) when he woke up, he saw one of his dogs get beat by a white mouse deer, and he thought "This is a sign, I'll build a city here". Melaka was born. Many ancient costumes were shown in the museum, and who were the first merchant to arrive and so on (I can't remember the exact order, Thais, Chinese, Arabs I guess they were last since they brought Islam), what I remember it that the Portuguese colonised first and built A Famoso, then the Dutch who built the church, and finally the English, they just hung around for a while.

As we left the Palace we walked towards the Dutch district which is all red, and has a wind mill. Quite a view in the middle of Asia.

Ting was insisting that we see the Peranakan Museum. Her grand mother is born in that culture which is the mix between Chinese and Malay. To reach the museum we had to walk through Jonker street,where all the shops are. We got caught in the shops like bees in a bottle full of jam and ended up buying, not one, not two, but four magnets! And we also ate the speciality of Melaka some chicken with rice balls.
It's quite good, but really tastes like chicken rice, except that the rice is in a ball shape.

After all this we finally reached the museum which had closed five minutes before. Ting was quite upset and we were both rather tired so we decided to relax in the hotel until dinner time.

As we were in an old Portuguese colony, I thought it would be nice to have Portuguese food that night. To go to the Portuguese quarter a taxi was the best way. No meters in taxis in Melaka, you have to bargain, and we managed to get our own chauffeur who waited for us until our dinner was over. Our ride wasn't a limousine, and I feared for a while that he might invite himself to our table, but all went fine.

We reached the Portuguese quarter and I had never seen a Portuguese restaurant look so much like a Chinese hawker. Little stalls, and tables outside. Plenty people watching football. I thought for a while I was back in Singapore... But no, a fat lady came up and asked if we wanted Portuguese food and as we timidly nodded she brought us over to the sea side on a nice table right next the the stereo playing some country music.

The food was delicious, really. So much that we didn't think of taking a picture before we started, that's what Ting left of the baked fish with chili (it sounds like a Chinese recipe?).

As delicious as it was, I didn't feel the Portuguese tangle in it... We still enjoyed ourselves having a romantic dinner by the sea, the waves were probably swooshing on the shore in a delicate sandy noise, but we never got the hear them as Johnny Cash was walking the line in our ears.

That day had been long enough (we woke up at 6.15 as the bus was leaving at 7.30) so we went to bed.

The next day had one objective to it: Peranakan Museum. Well Ting pulled me out of bed and dragged me there really. I wasn't disappointed. No photos could be taken, but we saw a staircase entirely built with zero nails! We walked up and it held!
I would like to say more about it, we did have a guide to explain the objects and rooms, but we also had a school visiting at the same time. No need to say that 13-15 year old kids are more interested in some foolishness than listening to a guide. But I recommend that place, even in these conditions it was nice to see.

We had little time left after this as our bus was leaving at 4.00 sharp so we hurried back to the hotel. We were late of course but the bus had waited for us.

Melaka is a nice little town. I wouldn't spend a whole week there but it has lots of character and a history to it which is very uncommon. Ting and I both keep nice memories of this week end, Malays are very welcoming and always smiling. I would recommend it to anyone who needs to spend two or three days in a quiet place very accessible from Singapore.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

La vie en 16/9e…

Un petit post en Français pour les moins anglophones d’entre vous… Je ne peux malheureusement pas faire de traduction automatique du site pour que tout le monde puisse comprendre, va falloir se mettre à l'anglais les gars!

La vie en 16/9e je disais. Pourquoi 16/9e ? Car les Asiatiques avec leurs yeux bridés voient dans ce format. Moi aussi car le riz commence à me durcir l’intestin.

Non, la vie ici ce n’est pas pareil. Ce n’est pas pire, ce n’est pas beaucoup mieux qu’à Paris si ce n’est que le climat est horrible pour certaines personnes et un véritable bonheur pour moi qui ai une répulsion pour le froid. D’ailleurs en ce moment même je grelotte un peu car le clim’ est trop basse et que la température intérieure (une vingtaine de degré) est trop froide. A noter que dehors il doit faire dans les 25-29°, en France selon la météo il fait 10 à Paris à 15h.

Pour le reste je vis presque comme je vivais à Paname, mais en couple, adieu belle vie de célibataire qui peut laisser ses chaussettes sales traîner par terre et ce pendant des semaines (voire des mois).
N’ayant pas encore pu faire l’acquisition d’un engin motorisé à deux roues, je prends les transports en commun. Ces derniers n’ont d’ailleurs rien de commun avec la France. On pourrait dîner à même le sol et question ponctualité pas plus de cinq minutes d’attente pour un métro, un toutes les deux minutes aux heures de pointes. Les grèves n’existent pas, ce n’est pas un droit ici, pas plus que les manifestations, bien que je sente le peuple Singapourien en mal de rébellion, mais la politique n'est pas le sujet de cet article et Big Brother nous guette, attention la censure.

Les Singapouriens ont deux gros défauts. Ils ne savent ni marcher vite, ni marcher droit. Parcourir vingt mètres dans un couloir de métro sans s’énerver relève de l’exploit. Car on tombe toujours derrière le type qui change de direction dès qu’on cherche à le doubler, et quand enfin on suit une personne qui marche à une allure convenable elle s’arrête pile pour aucune raison apparente. Quand je dis qu’ils marchent lentement, je veux dire vraiment la vitesse de l’escargot. L’autre jour dans un centre commercial je ralentissais mon pas pour attendre Tinker, et malgré ma vitesse réduite je parvenais tout de même à doubler des gens ! On pourrait penser que c’est à cause du climat, or un centre commercial est climatisé façon frigo donc un peu sport aide à se réchauffer souvent. Non, je crois qu’il s’agit d’une déformation culturelle. Un singapourien pressé ne va pas plus vite : il hèle un taxi. Dans les premiers temps, quand je marchais aux cotés de ma douce, après trois minutes dix mètres nous séparaient, certes elle a de petites jambes, mais un pas aussi réduit tient presque du miracle. Je me demande d’ailleurs comment font-ils pour ne pas tomber entre deux pas, un équilibre exemplaire !
Cette allure réduite n’a pas que des inconvénients. Elle apprend la patience. Elle empêche de trop suer lorsqu’on marche dehors. Mais surtout elle montre bien le flegme Singapourien. Je n’ai jamais vu une personne d’ici s’énerver pour quoi que ce soit, ou très rarement. Les gens sont disciplinés et attendent quand il faut attendre. Marchent quand il faut marcher, et votent quand il faut voter (ce qui n'arrive jamais. Ah zut, j'avais dit pas de politique).
A noter que le Singapourien conduit comme il marche, c'en est scandaleux!

J'ai aussi eu la grande, l'énorme chance de vivre des réunions de familles (deux à ce jour, pour fêter le premier mois de bébés, ça se fait ici).
Comme en France: on doit y être poli et dire bonjour à Mamie, c'est les seuls points communs.
J'ai été très surpris de trouver la télé allumée au cours de toutes ces réunions. Et beaucoup de gens en arrivant disent à peine bonjour et vont s'assoir devant un programme en Chinois. Ils ne se lèvent que pour aller se goinfrer au buffet, puis retournent s'assoir.
Je n'ai vu que des buffets. J'ai le sentiment que cela vient de la taille des familles. Jusqu'au milieu des années 70 la plupart des familles avaient au moins dix enfants, ces enfants sont aujourd'hui nos parents et tous les cousins qui vont avec. Donc pour nourrir tout ce monde des buffets sont organisés sur le palier.

J'exagère évidemment en disant que les gens se posent devant la télé et ne font rien d'autre. Ils accueillent tous les visiteurs avec beaucoup de chaleur. Et je me suis senti très vite chez moi en compagnie de la famille de Ting.
Comme partout les enfants sont toujours aimés, ici la photo de Eamon

et là c'est le fils de la cousine de Ting, Marcus

La nourriture est toujours excellente, et en abondance. Ainsi que la boisson, mais non alcoolisé. La tradition n'est pas à l'alcoolémie, et à part quelques bières parfois, on ne boit pas en famille. Ceci n'empêche nullement aux gens de passer des bons moment. Est-ce que ma culture européenne de la boisson me rend incapable de m'amuser sans boire? Parfois je me le demande puisque la réflexion m'est venue.

Une autre chose d'assez remarquable je trouve, on peut venir et repartir quand on veut de ces réunions. Les gens viennent, mangent, discutent un peu, regardent la télé puis partent. On est pas obligé d'arriver au début, ni d'attendre la fin pour partir. Et dire que je me faisais toujours tirer les oreilles quand je quittais la table trop tôt lors de ces déjeuner familiaux interminables de mon enfance. Je dois bien admettre que je préfère la tradition d'un repas autour d'une table, mais à Rome on fait comme les romains...

Je pense tout de même indispensable de bien préciser qu'au fond ils s'aiment, s'aident et trouvent toujours du temps pour se retrouver dans cette famille, et que ceci est par dessus tout le plus important...