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Published: February 19th 2012
Leaving Beijing on Chinese New Year's Eve is not very smart. First, there are no taxis. Second, the long walk to the subway with luggage involves dodging fireworks. Third, it's cold. Fourth, the flight's expensive. Fifth, you probably don't want to hear about the fifth - let's move on.
First stop - chilling in Singapore with Alan and Cherryll. And naan. Sooooo muuuuuch naaaaaannnnnnnnn. And fresh, which is more than can be said for any of Alan's jokes. Staying in Little India is highly recommended. Especially just around the corner from the 24-hour Mustafa centre, where you can buy anything, but mainly chocolate. Chocolate that isn't made in China. Mmmm.....
We had a gorgeous few days looking at orchids, not drinking cocktails around the swimming pool, shopping (a welcome respite for those of us who live in Beijing and Katherine) and eating amazing Indian food. We also introduced Alan and Cherryll to the wonders of Cold Stone icecream. It's so much better in Singapore - they have heaps more mixes. German Chocolate Cake Icecream and Apple Pie Icecream must be censored by pitchi - too much deliciousness for a country struggling with childhood obesity.
Toodlepips parents, and one
45-minute ferry ride to Bintan Island. One skipping of the immigration queue with a preggers belly, then a 50-minute taxi ride to Mutiara Guesthouse and Beach. And bliss.
Not a resort in sight. Only palm trees, sand and sea. We spent the next six days on a tight schedule. Wake up-eat pancakes-walk/run-swim-eat lunch-do nothing-eat dinner-play scrabble-drink port-sleep. Phew! It's enough to make boot camp look like flip-flop camp.
The guesthouse was incredible. We had our own 'pavilion' with a lovely balcony where we spent most of the day (if we weren't at the beach). The whole place can only house 18 people, over an area of about 8 hectares, so it wasn't exactly crowded. We generally had the beach to ourselves.
After breakfast in Indonesia, we had lunch in downtown Singapore and then made our way to Malacca, Malaysia for dinner. We stayed at the gorgeous Oriental Riverside Guesthouse with a private room that looked like it was straight out of a 60s Bond film.
Malacca is a great town for a few days. And playing mancala. We did a river cruise, wandered the streets, visited the European relics from colonisation from the Portuguese, then the
Dutch and then the Brits. And then the Portuguese again. No, only kidding. But, they've had a wacky history. It's kinda surreal seeing mosques, opposite temples, opposite churches, yet no one is trying to kill each other.
Back to Singapore for a quick bout of last minute shopping to stock up for Beijing, this time staying in Little Arabia/Arab town/don't know what it's called, but it's cool.
And, the weirdest park in the world. It's called 'Tiger Balm Park' or 'Haw Par Villa'. It's a park that was built by the creators of Tiger Balm. If you don't know what that is, ask anyone who went to high school with Sof. It documents Chinese mythology the only way a Tiger Balm creator knows how. We were put onto this by our buddy, Andy
, and it was so worth it. Even though we still don't understand it. We're not sure what was weirder. Looking at the weirdness, or looking at the Chinese families visiting the park, who seemed to think it was all normal. The highlight was definitely the Ten Courts of Hell, which vividly recreated all the possible punishments for naughtiness, such as "prostitutes" being "drowned in pools
of blood", "those who disrepected their elders" having their "hearts cut out" and "those who misused books" were "sawn in two". Why anyone would bring their children here remains a mystery.
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