Friday, March 30, 2012

One month anniversary of our move to Singapore- let's go to Australia to celebrate!

One month ago, we arrived in Singapore.  The time has definitely flown by.  What better way to mark this occasion than to leave Singapore? Drew had a trip planned to go to Sydney for work and had to be here for 8 days so we decided to extend the trip to the following weekend for a grand total of 10 days.
They say good things happen in threes, so fingers crossed this comes true for me. First of all, we find out tomorrow at 12pm Sing time if our offer on the apartment has been accepted, Second, I will be exploring Sydney this week which is just amazing.  So far I am loving this city.  I have seen a Lulu Lemon, Target, and wine that does not cost an arm and a leg! I am SO excited to explore the beaches here.  They are supposed to be epic.   Very curious to see how they compare to San Diego.  Third, as today is the last business day in the quarter, I have about an additional $500k I am trying to close today and it looks like it is going to come  in.   Three good things indeed.
It is 2:20am here in Sydney and Drew wants to go to bed so I will finish up tomorrow.

Monday, March 26, 2012

House hunters international

We started house hunting this weekend.  The cost of rent in Singapore will make your stomach flip.  We sent our  agent some of the districts (aka regions) of Singapore we are interested in and our price range of $4-5k.  We said if we had to go above $5k we would consider the listings.  Yesterday was a long day where we viewed 9 properties primarily around Orchard (where we currently are) and CBD- City Business District. CBD is closer to Drew's work and is pretty close to China Town and the Quays.  The first place we looked at was old and gross, I won't go into too much detail. The second place we looked at was much better, but still not great. If a building in Singapore was built 5 years ago or more, it is considered old.  The difference in this five years is pretty amazing.  The kitchens in most moderns homes are open and connected to the family room so there is one communal open space.  Most condos are all in buildings, but the newer buildings are high rises vs "low rises". Newer homes have large open bay windows, lots of natural light that spills into the unit, light marble, tile, and wood flooring, and bathrooms with minimal bathroom space.  All units have bomb shelters... which I find pretty hilarious. This is one of the safest countries in the world and yet they all have bomb shelters!  Square footage is so precious it's shocking to see this.   Also, may of the units have maid's quarters.  These are tiny rooms you might be able to fit a single bed in, with no windows, and no air conditioning.  Many people we know use them as storage. The older units however, have narrow rooms that are separate kitchen, many don't have ovens (only microwave ovens), and the color scheme is dark oranges, dark grays, and is pretty depressing.  The trade-off is that newer places don't have a lot of closet space and the bedrooms are extremely small.  This is a problem Drew and I keep running into.  It has been very challenging to find a place that is nice, reasonably priced, in a good location, and has rooms big enough for our furniture,  and enough closet space for our clothes.
I thought I found the perfect spot today.  One of Drew's clients had mentioned the complex and when I researched it I instantly fell in love. It is down by the water,  has a view of the harbor, and is a unit on the 22nd floor.  When I walked in, I instantly felt happy with the natural light that poured in through the floor to ceiling window and loved how the light reflected off the white counters, white walls, and white floors. The kitchen had more storage space than anything we had seen, there was ample closet space, and the bathrooms looked pristine.  Most units in Singapore require a 2 year lease and Drew had said he trusted me that if I think it was good for us, he would trust me to commit and we would move forward.  This place was $5,500 per month and would be a major investment.  I loved it, love the pool, the area, and everything about the unit. The only thing I was concerned about was that Drew would think we were too far removed from the city.  He didn't think he would be able to view anything this week because he's so busy with work but managed to slip away during his lunch break.  From the second he arrived I knew he wasn't into it.  I could have gotten him into the actual unit, high floor, amenities, etc, but he hated being so far from city center. So, this gorgeous place is a no, and I get to spend the next two days looking at places to live.

www.reflectionsatkeppelbay.com.sg/


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Exploring Pet Hotels

After our late night out on Saturday night, Drew and I slept in until about 10am on Sunday and then took our time getting our day started.  We leave for Sydney on the 29th and will be gone for 10 days so we started looking into options for Chewie while we are gone.  Because Singapore is such a central hub for businesses, people travel quite a bit to the surrounding areas.  Pet boarding and pet sitting is a large business in Singapore and we spent the majority of our Sunday exploring Pet Hotels.  Pet Hotels are people who open up their homes to take in 4-8 dogs to stay with them for various periods of time.
The first place we went to was in the far Western part of the island.  The apartment was very nice, Chewie seemed very comfortable and at home, but at no point did the girl try to interact with Chewie or play with her.  Chewie needs lots of attention and to be played with everyday so I didn't feel like she would get what she needs staying there.  It was almost impossible for us to catch a taxi so far out of the city and the sun was blazing.  By the time we finally got a cab, we made it just in time to our next appointment to view the second place.
The second place  was actually very close to the quarantine station in the north part of the island.  Drew and I met Jason and Shirley, a wonderfully nice mom and son who lived in an older apartment, but it was by far the biggest apartment we had every seen.  I think you could have easily fit our apartment three, maybe four times in theirs.  They keep a maximum of 4 dogs there at any time and all of the dogs seemed extremely happy and jason and shirley gave them lots of love and attention.   I had a great feeling about that place.
At this point it was almost 3pm and we had not eaten lunch so we made our way to the far eastern side of the island near the airport (we traveled almost the entire island that day) and stopped in a beautiful mall to grab some.  Drew and I were extremely happy when we stumbled across Din Tai Fung.  We went to the original restaurant in TaiPei and it was one of the best meals we had in our last trip to Asia.   We ate a delicious meal of Pork buns, pork wontons, and veggie and pork noodles, and washed it down with jasmine tea.
We caught a taxi to the final spot. This place had a really good website and great reviews online.  When we got to the apartment, we were greeted by 5 dogs, one of which was a very hyper Pug named Motza Ball aka Mozzie.  He was HILARIOUS! So much energy, so much personality, and just wants to play.  The people seemed very nice and had been in business for 5 years but the dogs there were just too hyper and borderline aggressive to Chewie.  She hid in a corner under a chair the entire time we were there.  This place normally has 8 dogs during the day and we decided that would be WAY to much for Chewie so we are going to book the second place we visited.
Last night was Web Wednesday.  This is Singapore's LA Ad club for the digital community.  It meets at this bar called the Beer Market which is like a stock market for beer.  As the demand for a particular beer goes up, the price goes up.   As the demand decreases, the price goes down and the prices stay fixed for 30 minutes. There was presentation by YouTube and then IAB before everyone was left to their networking. The bar was extremely crowded and not very conducive to hearing a presentation but it was great to get out and meet some new people in the industry.  Drew kept getting knocked around and he was ready to leave pretty quickly so we went with some of his coworkers to grab some food.
We walked from Clark Quay along the river as it started to rain lightly.  We had to cross the bridge to get to Robertson Quay and we tried to go to Wine Connection but both locations were completely full.  We ended up at a spot that served pizza since that sounded absolutely perfect.  We had five minutes left until happy hour ended (9pm) and were able to get a bottle of white wine for $39!.  I couldn't believe it.  We ordered a bunch of plates for the table to share- everything from pizza crudo, rissoto, sausage, chicken kebab, and caprese salad.  Very full and a bit drunk, we headed home so I could awaken to a wine headache this morning to start our Thursday.

Monday, March 19, 2012

3 days of fun

The sun finally came out on Thursday and Chewie and I decided to work on our tans by the pool. Chewie is becoming an instant celebrity at Orchard Scott's Residence (our apartment).  On this day, there was a large group of little girls out at the pool around 5pm with their families and they flocked to Chewie, petting her, scratching her ears, and trying to get her to play with a stick.  I thought this picture was too cute and had to share. Here is a picture of what our condo looks like in case you want to see where we are living:
Drew's office had a BBQ near their new office which they will be moving into in May so they had a BBQ on the rooftop of one of the girl's apartments near the new office. I have heard rumors of these cool apartment rooftops but this was my first experience in actually seeing one.  Imagine a 15 story apartment building and then having a full BBQ with a huge grill, a soothing breeze, and amazing views looking out onto the cityscape. There was lots of wine (naturally), AMAZING BBQ- seriously some of most well seasoned meat I have ever had, and brownie sundaes for dessert.  It was absolutely perfect.
I managed to escape the hangover on Friday morning and had a productive day working and then a nice afternoon by the pool.  To start out our weekend, Drew and I decided we were overdue for date night.  We went to Club street which is in between Raffles Place (where Drew's current office is) and Chinatown.  Every doorway opens to a restaurant or bar, each filled with people out on the town on a Friday night. When the restaurant is full, people spill out onto the patio and when the patio is full, they spill out onto the  street. Yes, people are smoking, drinking, and even dancing on the street.  I have never lived in a big city so I imagine looking down the street and literally every doorway is bursting at the seams with people enjoying different types of cuisines, overly expensive drinks, and smoking way too much to be something like New York city.  I have always toyed with the idea of living in New York or San Francisco at some point in my life and instead I am experiencing city life in SE Asia.
Drew and I went a nice tapas restaurant for dinner and had a lot of dishes, favorite being croquettas and enjoyed a couple glasses of wine before we explored the rest of Club Street and to do some serious people watching.  The next place we went to was called 83 which had a really cool vibe and has original pieces of artwork on the walls which were very funky.  After a couple drinks we went to a place called Gem where we sat outside on plush chairs and put our feet up and watched people wander up and down the street.  I discovered three types of people out and about:
1. Couples out on dates - these are of course easy to spot by amply dressed couples lost in each other's conversations
2. The after work happy hour that just kept going- these couples and groups are both men and women who are still in business attire and who's colored shirts are extremely wrinkled at this point. They are  in fact some of the louder people out and about as they have been drinking for a good four hours or more at this point.
3. All the single ladies- Girls night out is quite the spectacle in Singapore.  Women are dressed like they are going to clubs in Vegas and are in groups ranging from 3-15.  These girls are on a mission and this is not a mission to talk shop or share the latest office gossip.  These girls are on a mission to find a man and take him home.   It is quite enjoyable to watch and Drew and I had a front seat to view the flocks as they wandered the street in search of their next destination.
After enjoying the spectacle at Gem, it was almost time to go home when we spotted a rooftop  bar called Fry's Bistro.  The rooftop bars are some of the best so we decided to grab a nightcap before heading back.  Most buildings have "lifts", this one did not so Drew and I climbed 5 stories to the roof.  At each floor, there was writing on the stairwell telling you how many calories you had burned  and your first drink was already worked off, it was awesome.
The rooftop bar was everything we hoped for, the cool breeze, the beautiful views, and the people watching did not fail us.  Right after we sat down, and older gentleman sat down next to us with a young looking asian girl in a leopard dress.  I thought it was pretty interesting but it wasn't  until after the man disappeared and and the girl finally left a short while later and we saw her back down on the street with a group of girls did Drew and I realize we had encountered our first prostitute in Singapore!  In a city where it is technically illegal to be gay (though not enforced) and the city is all about good appearances that prostitution is legal and actually government regulated so that they can tax it.  It's pretty twisted.
I found the drinks to be extremely reasonably priced and LARGE! I had a delicious lychee martini and Drew ended up liking it so much we ordered another one.  We decided to get a little snack as well since they had a pizza quesadilla and decided  it would  be a crime to simply not taste this delicacy and it did not disappoint.  Why haven't we put cheese, pepperoni, peppers, and onions, and melt them into a crispy tortilla? It's SO good! So good, we had to refrain from ordering a second.
We paid the bill and decided to grab water at 7-11 (where we also grabbed a pack of oreos in a drunken stupor) before trying to catch a cab.
Saturday was a productive day involving a $315 trip to the grocery story where we got 6 bottles of wine which easily accounted for half the bill.  It happened to be a beautiful day outside so I swam 28 laps in our 60m pool to accomplish just over a mile.  I brought Chewie down with me and tied her up in a shady spot but she was quickly rescued by some cute little girls who promised to watch her while I swam.
I made an appointment to get a mani pedi and decided since it was only 1km away that I would walk.  I managed to take a wrong turn and ended up walking 1 1/2 km and arrive sweaty and late to my appointment.  They did a very thorough job and I did my best not to grimace when I handed over $50 for the service.  Right as I began my walk back it started to rain. The beginning of rain in Singapore is not like the West Coast where it starts sprinkling,  then drizzling, then eventually might pour for 10 minutes.  The beginning of rain in Singapore gives you about 30 seconds or less to get your ass inside before the sky opens up and a monsoon pounds gigantic raindrops down on you soaking you instantly. Needless to say, I was screwed and even though I sprinted the kilometer home in my flip-flops (losing one at one point and having to go back and put my dirty foot back in it) and holding my maxi dress up to my knees- getting crazy looks from people in passing cars, I made it home.   When  I walked in the door as thunder pounded outside our window, Drew looked at me with my hair stuck  to my head and my dress now a darker shade of green like I was a crazy woman.  My mascara thankfully didn't run (thank you YSL).
After eating dinner and freshening up, we made it out to the Boat Quay to catch up with Drew's coworkers and celebrate St. Patrick's Day before going out to the club. We found an Irish pub called Molly Malone's and Drew ordered several round of jameson shots and guiness for the group.  The staff passed around a hot lamb stew around 11pm which was actually delicious even though eating something hot in hot and humid weather was almost against my ethics.Since Singapore is such a melting pot,  there was actually a substantial group of Irish people (including Drew's coworker) out and about basking in their holiday.  Many people donned costumes, green boas, and leprechaun hats. It was almost time for us to head to the club to meet up with our other friends but the group convinced us to go to a karaoke bar before we left.
This karaoke bar was the most pathetic and depressing place, I didn't believe Dave when he said that this was actually a karaoke bar.  The bar patrons were quietly singing songs in Chinese, while the rest of the bar ignored the person who sang. Well, I felt the need to change things up a bit.  I belted out Lady Gag's "You and I" with liquid confidence and felt the eyes of the weirded out Chinese patrons on me
After I finished singing, Drew's coworker nailed Pearl Jam's "Last kiss" and Drew and I had to skiddadle to head out to Avalon at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to meet up with our friend who had competed in boxing match earlier in the evening and was having an after party at the club.
We made our way out to the hotel and had to walk through a promenade of shops out to the habor and through the dock to the club which is actually on the water.  Avalon is a HUGE Vegas like night club with about 6 different dance floors and people everywhere dancing their face off.  It had been along time since Drew and I had shaken it on the dance floor and had a blast letting loose a little bit stealing a few kisses along the way.  We were never able to find our friends but had an epic night out regardless.  This is definitely a spot we will be taking our friends when they visit.

I am getting devoured by mosquitoes sitting outside right now so that is all for tonight.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chewie gets her hair done

Chewie has adjusted wonderfully to our new home and though she has been a little extra clingy about making sure I am constantly in her sight (including following me into the bathroom), she is loving "resort life".  In the morning she naps while I am working and then around 1 I take her in her carrier with me to the gym so the maids can clean and she can be at ease near me.
In the afternoons, Chewie and I have been hanging out down by the pool.  I bring down her bed, a bone, some toys, and water to keep her comfortable but she spends a lot of her time exploring and stretching out in the grass.  She is SO happy to be outside and as the kids come down in the afternoon to play in the pool, they are mesmerized by Chewie's smile and want to play with her.  There is this adorable little girl I would imagine is about 4 years old names Jasmine with olive skin, and brown curly hair who is SO cute and obsessed with Chewie.
I have been reading a variety of books of different genres and most recently picked a book off of Amazon's best seller list called "Fifty Shades of Gray".  Boy was I in for a surprise! The book appeared to be a cute chick novel, but oh my goodness it turned out to be a LOT more. My mom said they were talking about it on Good Morning America so she at least knew what it was about... I was totally shocked. My LA book club meets this week and I am excited to start the next book they pick.
Yesterday I decided to try to get Chewie groomed.  The post-quarantine smell was pretty bad and it was time.  Using my best Google skills, I found a grooming station nearby and made an appointment for 4pm.  My pre-pay cell  phone does not have data services so I cannot use the maps and gps once I leave the apartment.   That said, I ended up a little lost once  I left the MRT (metro) and had to walk about 1 KM from the MRT to the groomer. I got to the groomer about 15 minutes late but it ended up being okay and he ended up giving me a BIG discount because he felt sorry for me walking so far, getting lost, and being SO sweaty by the time I got to the shop. Chewie was NOT happy about being at the groomer but since it was only a bath and no cut, it only took about an hour so I went to a shopping mall down there road (THEY ARE EVERYWHERE).  I walked in and was presently surprised to run into a wine shop right in the entrance! They asked me to come and taste their wine and I didn't want to be rude! I tasted 4 little sips of reds and whites but purchased my favorite bottle which I was pleased to find they had in stock, Kim Crawford Sav Blanc. I then paid $6 for a grande iced latte at Starbucks (these prices are seriously offensive) and then bought a new light weight green polka dot skirt before stumbling upon a book sale.
Thinking this would be a great way to find some books reasonably priced, I was again suprised to see even books on SALE, were over twice what I would pay in the US.   I took this as an opportunity to browse titles and make a list of books to download on my kindle for far less than I would pay buying books in Singapore.
By the time I made it back to the grooming station Chewie was done and ready to go. She was SO happy when we left, she pranced the entire walk back.  Everytime we passed people on the street as we made the trek back to the MRT people smiled and would  say "so cute-la".  La is a Singaporean expression where they put "la" at the end of things they say.  I'm not sure what it means,  but you hear it everywhere.
I put her back in her carrier and headed back to the Orchard MRT stop underneath the ION mall.  I grabbed chicken and rice for dinner for me and Drew and paid $8 for both of us! It was one of the cheapest meals we have had and was plenty filling.  I made it home around 6:15 just in time to catch The Voice which is becoming one of Drew's new favorite shows.
Today is Thursday and he has a BBQ this evening with his coworkers so I think I may venture out to try to get my nails done.  The sun hasn't been out much the past two days so it is a little bit cooler, but limits my pool time in the afternoon and I get stir crazy if i don't get out of the house.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Day 10- The return of Chewie!!

The first week in Singapore finished much the same as it started with the daily routine of Drew going to work every day and I work for 4-6 hours on my work for comScore.  I would take a break at some point to go to the gym and then hurry out the door to go see Chewie.  She continued to do well in quarantine but by the end she wore a look on her face saying, "Can I come home now?".  She was over it.
Last Wednesday we had our first visit from friends from the states.  A girl Drew and I know from the LA ad industry was in Singapore for the day with her brother so we met for drinks at the top of the Marina Bay Sands and then went to Clark Quay for dinner.  They wanted to try some local Malay cuisine but we ended up settling for Thai food at an outdoor patio that overlooks the river.  The meal was pretty good but the best dish was a shrimp fried rice dish that came in a hollowed out pineapple.  It was SO good.  We enjoyed two pitchers of "happy hour" tiger beer for $35 a piece.  So ridiculous- 3 1/2 times what we would pay in LA for happy hour.
Friday night I met up with Drew and his office for Friday happy hour. He works with some wonderful people and I was thrilled to get to know some of them.  They loved hearing the story of our engagement/proposal and were amazed we had been together over 4 years. All of Drew's colleagues were wonderful, but I had a particularly strong connection with his coworker's wife Runjenny (spelling?) She was an absolute blast.  We ended up going to the Boat Quay for tapas along the water with her and her husband.  We sat next to a mom and daughter at dinner who ended up providing great entertainment and education on Singapore culture and etiquette.
After dinner, we reconnected with Drew's colleagues and some of their friends at an outdoor wine bar called the Wine Connection on the Robertson Quay.  We took a bunch of group photos together and the wine kept flowing until things got a bit fuzzy and drew brought me home.
Saturday morning I awakened to my first hangover in Singapore to find their just as bad if not worse in Singapore.  I had broken the first cardinal rule of drinking by mixing alcohol- wine, beer, vodka, then wine, then beer.  It was bad news for  me on Saturday.  Drew had a great time making fun of my misery. We went to the hawker stands nearby and ended up with a nice hearty meal of chicken and rice for breakfast. Drew went out and had a productive Saturday picking up some things he needed and doing some research on getting us new cell phones but I headed back to bed and read, napped, and tried to recover before I finally went out to see Chewie for the last  time in quarantine.  It  started pouring rain while I was visiting her so I ended up staying for 2 hours.  Saturday night we had an easy night in and discovered a place we could actually buy fresh salads reasonably priced. Asia is not knows for its salads so this find was a gem and we will be eating from here often, especially as it is one MRT stop away.
Yesterday we hosted a BBQ at our complex and had about 10 people over. Drew ordered fresh meat from a site TheButcher.com.sg  The meat comes pre-cut, marinated, and ready to grill. We cooked up a feast and had great wine, side dishes, and fresh dessert from a bakery brought by Drew's new boss.  The fun was interpreted by a torrential downpour that lasted about 30 minutes.
Yesterday was a fun day but the highlight by far was having Chewie delivered to me at about 11:30. I was SO happy to see her and I don't think she stopped smiling all day yesterday.  It's good to have her home and everyone loved meeting her at the BBQ yesterday.  The only problem so far  is that she STINKS. Quarantine made her very smelly and I need to find a groomer in Singapore to get her freshened up.  Other that that, it is a HUGE relief having her home with me knowing she is safe and happy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Day 5 in Singapore- Back to the grind

Yesterday was Monday morning in Singapore.  We were supposed to get our Air Shipment at 10am but we received a call last minute that they would not be able to deliver it until Wednesday morning so Drew and I are stuck wearing the same clothes we've had the past week and half living out of our suitcases.  
We had breakfast upstairs in the breakfast lounge and the sun was shining and it looked it would be another beautiful day. Out of nowhere the sky darkened and it was was of the biggest downpours I have ever seen.  It was Drew's first day of work and he decided to take a taxi to the office rather than show up looking like he had endured a tsunami. I spent the morning catching up on much needed work for comScore and getting back in the swing of working.  Drew's coworker taught me that I could VPN in on my company's network to appear that I have a US IP address so I was able to watch the Bachelor online.  SO happy.  The video quality wasn't great and it took forever for the video to buffer but I got to see it regardless.  
I made the trek out to the quarantine station by myself with a new James Patterson book on my Kindle so the journey went by very quickly.  I sat with Chewie almost a full two hours just petting her and giving her love while I read my book.  
Drew got home around 7:30 and after relaxing for bit we set out so he could try on some nice watches.  Having a nice watch in Singapore is a BIG deal.  Having a nice watch is like... driving a nice car or having a good haircut in LA.  Everyone has them and it is a BIG deal.  Even Drew's office admin has a Rolex!  That said, Drew feels the need to have a nice watch so he has been spending lots of time looking at nice watches (particularly TAG) online and in stores.  
We went to the ION mall which is the highest end (they're all high end) on Orchard Road.  We went into the TAG store and Drew tried on a bunch of watches and likely found the one (or two) he wants.  He took down the model numbers and prices and then shopped on Amazon when we got back to our room.  The sales woman was asking a price almost 3 times was Drew could get the watch for on Amazon, that said, he thinks he should get two. ;)
After trying on the watches we went back to the famous food court downstairs determined to expand our pallet for local cuisine. Not quite as adventuresome as Drew, I opted for Indonesian BBQ which included a piece of chicken in a sauce that tasted like a balsamic reduction with some bbq seasoning.  It was delicious.  It came with scoop of rice that had a coconut curry sauce on it along with a piece of an egg omlette in the shape of a pizza slice.  Drew on the other hand, saw this buffet of things which looked like dumplings which all went into a bowl and ended up bringing back soup that was very, very fishy.  He ridiculed me for going safe but ended up hating his meal so much he went and got a plate of what I had  ordered.  Ha! The mall was still bustling at 10pm on a Monday night when we made our way back to the hotel for the evening. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Day 4 in Singapore- Day of rest, relaxation, and FOOD

Yesterday was the first day the clouds lifted and stayed lifted for most of the day.  Since quarantine was closed, it freed up a good three hours of our day and we decided to take advantage of it by BBQing poolside and inviting one of Drew's coworkers who lives in the complex as well.
Drew went to the grocery store around 1pm in the afternoon and I headed down to the pool with my book.  I ended up reading almost the entire book yesterday and couldn't think of a better way to spend my Sunday.  The sun came in and out of clouds a bit and I didn't feel like I was getting a tan but when I definitely had a sunburn bikini when I went to bed last  night.
Drew got down to the pool around 4 at which time his coworker Carine also met us.  She also transferred from LinkedIn out of the Toronto office and works in sales but on the hiring solutions side of the business which is a bit different than what Drew sells. She ended up being a wealth of knowledge since she has already been here for a month and knows the best  places to buy groceries, wine, and how to get many of the things we are accustomed to in the US.  BIGGEST discovery is that by logging into my company's VPN, I will appear to have a US IP address and can therefore watch my shows online that I haven't been able to see since we've been here including the BACHELOR!!!  Drew is beyond thrilled as you can imagine.  She also shared with us reasonable sites that will allow us to ship thing internationally for far cheaper than if we were to use FedEx or regular mail.
Around 5pm we started up the grill.  We ate SO much last night I could feel my stomach stretching. We BBQd chicken, veggies, and sausages.  Carine was kind enough to also make a risotto dish and share some off her delicious cheese, crackers, nuts.  It was a great picnic which was rounded out with about 4 bottles of wine :)  We stayed by the pool  until about 9pm so it took some time but we managed to go through 2 bottles of white and 2 bottles of red.
Two of Carine's friends ended up joining us who also taught us a lot about Singapore and its culture.  Her friend Roy has been here for 6 years and works in tech sales all over Asia.  He told us he has yet to close a big deal without going to a KTV which we learned stands for Karaoke TV.  There are places like this all over Asia.  This is a type of bar where men choose a type of women they like from physical appearance to educational level to personality type.  They then pay for the company of these women- this made me cringe and I tried not to appear judgmental although I doubt I succeeded in hiding my feelings. He then explained further that these women are nothing more than conversationalists and the men pay for their company so that they can talk to them and they often sing for them.  It's like a modern day geisha.  I couldn't believe that these kinds of things not only still exist but that men demand to be taken to them in order to close business.
I have LOTS to learn about Asian culture.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Day 3 in Singapore- Here comes the sun... and the HEAT!

Yesterday late morning the fun finally emerged in Singapore.  After a quick workout in the gym downstairs, we were out in the city by 11:30.
We had heard of a warehouse sale out in Marina Square in the Interlink Mall which is near City Hall.  When I had tried to buy new running shoes the day before, I learned they were about twice what I normally paid the salesman informed me of this warehouse sale  and I was excited at the prospect of finding shoes that wouldn't cost me $250.  Drew and I ventured to a new MRT stop we had never visited and continued to wander through yet another mall.  One of the things about Singapore that continues to amaze us are the endless vast malls that just go on forever and the rows of people in everyone of them.  Every time we think we come to the end of one mall, we enter a new one. The layout of Singapore is quite genius in that most of these malls begin below ground just above the MRT station.  As you leave the MRT you can pass by hundreds of stores, restaurants, and bakeries as you make your way through the city. If some pretty dress doesn't catch your eye and pull you in, the smell of the pastries undoubtedly will.  Drew and I have managed to resist so far, but the sweet scent of freshly baked pastries is like a slap in the face as you are strolling through the mall and the scent of maple syrup and hot bread fills your nostrils.
We managed to find the warehouse sale although naturally I was drawn into a store and could not resist the temptation to buy a new dress and belt on the way.  On the way back to the MRT we passed a cute wine shop. There was an adorable Asian woman who started talking to us about all of her wine from the South of France. The prices looked moderately reasonable (something very hard to find with wine in Singapore) so we ended up buying two bottles.  As we finished our transaction, we ended up learning that this cute Japanese woman who had been speaking to us with an interesting accent was in fact Russian.  It is so bizarre to speak to an Asian woman with a Russian accent. She told us the story of her family who lived in a region which used to be the far western part of Japan which had been won in a war against Russia in the early 1900's.  That region was eventually re-conquered by the Russians and although many Japanese left, her family stayed.  When we informed her Drew was 100% Romanian, she commented, "Yes, you look like a Slov." I found this funny.
Finally getting back onto the MRT with our arms full of shopping bags, it was time to make the daily trek out to visit Chewie.  We were further south than we normally start out so it was about 10 MRT stops to get to the Northern part of the peninsula. Drew had put $18 on each of our MRT cards on Thursday when we arrived and this fare has lasted us three full days as we have traveled all over the city.  It's pretty amazing for $6 a day we have been able to go everywhere.
As I mentioned earlier, the sun finally came out today which meant so did the heat and humidity.  The 15 minute walk from the MRT to quarantine was treacherous. vVisitng hours on Saturdays are from 2-6 so we arrived much earlier than usual. When Drew and I got to the station, we were both soaked with sweat.  We signed in and got to Chewie's room to the normal hyper freak out session we love.  Even though her room is well air conditioned, she pants a lot and chugs water out of her water bowl.  The main guy we have seen everyday in the facility is very attentive about making sure the dogs have plenty of water and he even made sure Chewie's water was cold. :)
We took her outside to one of the play pens to pee and to try to get her some exercise.  She had a HUGE smile on her face as she was with us.  It warmed my heart to see her so happy.  The heat made play time tough and she began panting pretty hard so we just hung out in the shade of a tree petting her and giving her some love.  When her panting got really intense, we went back inside to her cool room and played with her for awhile.  She finished  the chicken bone we had given her yesterday while we were there and once that was done, she was more willing to play.  We went outside one more time and then gave her another chicken bone when we left.  There are no visiting hours allowed on Sundays so hoping that the bone will help her pass the time until I can see her on Monday.  We stayed with her for just under 2 hours.
The sun disappeared behind some afternoon clouds and the walk back to the MRT was not nearly as bad.  Doing the shopping before seeing Chewie has not been the smartest idea since we have to lug our bags around with us everywhere we go.  We made it back to the hotel while the sun was still up for a change and immediately put on our swimsuits and headed down to the pool with a couple of cold beers (which cost about $5 each).  The pool is not heated and the cool water feel magical after being hot, sticky, and sweaty all day. Our residence has about 5 pools of various sizes and shapes which have waterfalls and fountains.  There is an abundance of families here which like us are in temporary corporate housing.   I am amazed at how many have young kids (and LOTS of them!).   There were toddlers splashing in the pool next to us and it was cute to watch the kids interact.
Drew noticed there are several cabanas outside by the pool which have large BBQ's and granite bars perfect for entertaining and dining poolside.   Drew asked one of the families if they had to reserve it and they told us it is free of charge when you reserve it with the concierge and they take care of setting everything up, providing BBQ equipment, and clean up. That said, Drew and I plan on BBQing Sunday afternoon and invited one of Drew's coworkers who just moved here from Toronto.  Drew loves to entertain and wants to enjoy this facility while we can.
When the sun went down, we came back up to the room, showered, and set out to go to try Singapore's signature dish, chili crab.  After doing some research online, we found the place which is said to have the best in the city, a restaurant called "No Signboard".  We got directions on how to get there via the MRT (it's in another mall- shocking) which is on the HarborFront.  This mall could likely have been the busiest one we had seen yet.  It was Saturday night but I have never seen so many people out an about in an area at one time.  Thousands of people wandered around  the mall, shopping with their families and enjoying the various dining options. Drew found a shop where he bought his beard trimmer (another thing on the to do list) and met me upstairs at the Vivo City Mall.  The best way to describe this mall is Universal City Walk meets the Santa Monica Promenade.   It was VERY family friendly and there many fun activities for little children which were still going on at 10pm  after dinner.
The restaurant No Signboard was a very interesting experience. Drew ordered the smallest crab on the menu which still  cost $50.  We were curious to know how he  would  eat it when he wasn't given a fork or anything to crack the crab open.  The meat came off the shell like  butter and the thick soup like sauce was a spectacular pairing (or so he said as I'm not a big fan of crab).  I wanted to be brave and expand my horizons, but the menu was quite a challenge for me.
First of all, they had an entire page devoted to shark fin.  The Asian culter is responsible for depleting the planet of 90% of the world's shark population through over harvesting sharks for shark fin soup. Because they world is now running out of sharks, Asians have now began catching the beautiful and rare manta rays and using their fins in the soup.  These are two of the worlds most beautiful creatures and I feel so strongly against shark-finning,  seeing it on the menu brings a wave of nausea over me. If you want to join the cause, you can like https://www.facebook.com/StopSharkFinning on Facebook.  Needless to say, I skipped this page on the menu and had to fight the urge to speak  to the manager about this.
As I'm not the biggest fan of shellfish, about half the menu was immediately undesirable.  The fish on the menu was served "whole" fish, not filleted. I have big problems eating fish that is looking at me so that was going to be another issue.  I desperately wanted to avoid ordering chicken or meat as this place is known for their seafood.  The price of the food here was pretty expensive so I wasn't going to get something unless I was going to eat it.  Drew convinced me to try some chili scallops which ended up being phenomenal.  I was very proud of myself for trying something I'm not familiar with and actually liking it. We both had a wonderful meal and were very happy we made the journey.  
Another thing which we are going to have to get used to is the price and serving of alcohol. Drew ordered Jack Daniels on the rocks and for $16 he got a shot of Jack in a glass with ice. We both may end up giving up drinking at this rate.
After dinner we walked around the top floor  of Vivo City and saw fireworks coming from Sentosa Island likely from Universal Studios.  The mall was still bustling at 10pm and among the concrete and benches were large pools of ankle deep water where people could wade through.  I have never seen anything like it but can imagine on a hot day walking around outside, soaking your feet in some cool water must feel amazing.
Fighting exhaustion we finally made our way back through the mall, down to the MRT, and were in bed by 11pm.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Day 2 in Singapore

The clouds have yet to lift and since we have been here we have seen two types of weather- light rain and heavy downpour.  There was a light breeze today and the temperature seemed much more bearable as we made our journey through the city on our second day of getting settled.  Keeping our fingers crossed that maybe this is a sign we are getting acclimated, but highly doubt it.
After a day of trying to recover from our long journey, we tried to start being productive today.  Things are simply going to take longer here as we don't have a clue where we are going and we no longer have cars.  The first thing on the to do list was get ourselves a cell phone. Verizon Wireless does not offer any service here and therefor our phones would not even work if we wanted to pay the exorbitant cost for international calling. The two primary cell phone carriers in Singapore are Singtel and Star-Hub.  We have been told that although Singtel is more expensive, it is better service and we will be able to travel with it as we go to different countries. I spent a long time on the phone with Verizon this morning to discover the iPhone 4 does not have international capabilities but Drew's iPhone 4S does.  Since his work will be giving him a new phone on Monday when he starts work, I can utilize his phone (and hopefully his itunes account!). One of the interesting  things about Singapore is almost everywhere we have gone, we have had to show our passports and Drew's employment pass.  For us even to get a cell phone contract required us to show proof of his employment.  Since he has not received his "green card" yet, we had to get a pre-paid phone which we will likely have for 2 weeks before switching to a regular post pay plan.  That said, we finally got a mobile phone!  It took about an hour of playing with the sim card to figure it out but we are live.
After getting the cell phone, we made our way to the ION mall which is the most high end mall in Singapore and probably the planet.  They are known for having one of the best food courts as well and Drew and I had lunch at the Food Opera dining on bbq pork buns, scallop rolls, shrim and scallop dumplings, and chili pork noodles.  We discovered this spot when we were in Singapore in November and it was one of our favorite meals we had.  After we filled our bellies, we stopped at the Novena MRT stop and grabbed some dog treats  for Chewie and a couple odds and ends we forgot yesterday.  We then made the long trip out to the North end of the peninsula to see Chewie in quarantine again.
She definitely seemed much more stressed out today than she had yesterday.  While it had been less than 12 hours since we had seen her yesterday, today it was almost 24 and she was definitely more clingy to us. We stayed with her for an hour and a half today and played, took her on two little walks, and just sat petting her letting her know we love her and this was only temporary.
We gave her one of the chicken bones we picked up on the way out and she didn't even look at us as we were leaving.  Good to know where we stand.
Drew and I decided to start getting back on track with diet and exercise today.  After a month of going away lunches, parties, dinners, and drinks, we need to deflate. We had a great workout this morning in our gym facility at our condoWe thought a nice sushi dinner seemed the best way to round out the first day of eating healthy and found a great spot called Tomi Sushi in the Novena Mall.  The cost of everything here is so much more than the states, it is going to take some time to get used to.  Made it back to the house and are going to enjoy a nice night in with a bottle of wine and a movie.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Moving to Singapore and Day 1 in the city

After 27 years of living in Southern California, I packed up my life and everything I am familiar with and moved with my fiance and dog Chewie.
The 21 hours of travel time  is tough to endure, I will not hide it.  As much as we hope friends and family will come to visit, we know the trip is not for the faint-hearted and will substantially limit the number of visitors we have out here.  That said, we made it.  While I usually enjoy a couple cocktails and a xanax to help shorten the trip, I was traveling with Chewie in cabin and was not sure how the long flight would effect her and needed to be alert so she would not disturb other passengers.  While carrying a dog on board is not typically allowed on Singapore Airlines, I had her authorized as a service dog a couple months ago.   This was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made.  Not only can she go with me wherever I am which helps keep her calm, I am calmer knowing she is safe and happy being with me.
Chewie did amazingly on the flight.  The reservation team gave us four seats for the two of us and Chewie so she was able to rest upon a throne of pillows on her own seat.  She is quite the princess.  When she had to go pee, we snuck to the back of the plane in front of the bathrooms, laid down a pee pad and she amazingly went right not it, no problems.  She was happy as a clam to be sitting with us and everyone walked by us saying something something which sounded like "Kauii" which apparently means "So Cute!".
When we finally arrived at Singapore Airport around 3:30 in the morning, someone from the airline met us as we got off the plane and took us to the customs room where I had to leave Chewie.   Being extremely exhausted and having to leave my dog with strangers in the airport to go off to quarantine for the next 10 days was so hard.  My nerves were shot and my anxiety was going crazy.  Drew was my saving grace. He was nothing short of amazing, comforting, and so caring including making me eat a McDonald's breakfast at the airport which I have not tasted in probably 10 years.
LinkedIn arranged for a car to take us to our corporate housing at Orchard Scott's Residence just off Orchard Road.  We arrive at our housing around 5:30 in the morning and were amazed at how vast and beautiful the facility is.  Our room is on the 10th floor of one of the towers giving us a great view and the chance of a breeze if we open the windows to turn off the air conditioning (not likely in the near future). We crashed out around 6:30 in the morning and slept hard until 2:30 in the afternoon.  After hardly sleeping the past 24 hours, this was extremely necessary. We got up,  skyped the family and then set out to visit Chewie in quarantine.
Drew ate duck and noodles from a hawker stand near our hotel which is an amazing meal that costs about $2.  We expect to eat at these stands a lot.  We then conquered the MRT (Singapore's gorgeous Metro) and rode about 20 minutes out toward the quaratine station.  We received poor directions from the clerk at the MRT and ended up walking about 1 1/2 miles (about 1 mile more than we should have) until we finally found the facility.  It was about 5pm when we got there and were able to spend a full hour with Chewie.  She was SO happy to see us.  As nervous as I was to see her, she look amazingly well accustomed. She has her own room which is indoors with its own air conditioning. We were able to give her two beds,  her favorite toys,  and two bones to help keep her busy and comfortable. We took her outside for a walk around the playpen but she preferred keeping in her room where it was nice and cool.  Leaving her was very tough but we will go visit her again today for a couple hours.
We stopped at Cold Storage which is a small grocery store in the mall one MRT stop away from our hotel. We picked up some basic essentials for our tiny fridge including produce, sandwhich stuff, breakfast items, and of course booze.  The price of alcohol is absolutely insane but at least there is a huge selection of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.
By the time we got back to the hotel we were extremely sweaty, tired, and hungry.  We ate a light dinner in and then took a dip in the pool downstairs before going to sleep early around 10:30.
It will definitely take some time to familiarize ourselves with city life and are not sure if we will ever adjust to the humidity but we are both excited at this great adventure.   More to come soon.