Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Forced Happiness at the "Happiest Place on Earth"

Hong Kong Disney
When my children were little, I admit I enjoyed both Magic Kingdoms. I liked watching my kids' faces when they found characters to scribble autographs and I enjoyed watching them take in the magic of the park; the firework displays and the joyful parades left us all awe.

When an opportunity arose to visit Disney Paris with my then 16 year old son, we jumped at the chance.  Little did I know that not all Disney properties are created equal. Disney Paris is a far cry from the massive entertainment complexes you find the in the US. What we found was far removed from the organized, well run parks; instead we found typical French disdain for....well...everything.  The Parisians that worked at the park seemed to think it was a favour for them to take your ticket or allow you on the ride.  You know, that under their forced anoxeric smile they were thinking, "Bourgeois peasants, stupid Anglophones, how I despise you."

After that horrible experience, R2 and I promised to never listen to another screaming kid or Mickey's falsetto in a park for as long as we are breathing.  Au contraire mon frère!

R2 just happens to have Honk Kong Disney as a customer and his company needed to send in the big guns.  To make our lives easier with the park being so far out of the city, the customer booked us in the DL Hollywood Resort.  We were Winnie-the-Poo hostages with no WiFi and all our food came in the shape of Mickey's head. The hotel had one bar and the drinks still had a Disney feel to them.  Your typical Manhattan became a "Mousehatten" and a Cosmo became a Pluto.

Can you spot the difference?
I had the luxury of leaving the park and taking three subway trains just to escape the screaming Cantonese children.  The distance seemed minor and I couldn't get off the property fast enough.  R2 was not so lucky. His meetings were conducted in the park and often he had to wait for the parade to finish so he could cross the street to catch the bus back to the resort.
Torture, I say torture

We made a mature decision that because we had come all this way, we should at least check out the park one afternoon.  In all fairness to HK Disney, the park was clean, beautiful and the Chinese were efficient at moving the lines.  We rode Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear and of course, saved the best for last - It's a Small World. The parade was decent if you could stand being pushed and shoved by thousands of photography Asians jockeying for the best photo op of Alice in Wonderland and I have to admit The Lion King was exceptional.  If that show is any indication of the broadway show, it must be a delight to watch.

The Disneyland bar - the happiest place on earth
Nevertheless, we left the park earlier than we needed to be at the airport but once we hit the lounge at United Airlines, alcohol never soothed the savage beast so quickly. After five hours with screaming, pushing, whining people - oh and the kids were annoying too, a turbulent four hour flight back to S'pore was a welcome relief.  It is good to be home.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Tell-Tale Signs of the Asiatic Spitting Cobras

Singapore is a fine city but it is literally a "fine" city.  If you litter or jay walk there is a fine. If you indulge your inner creative being and decided to defile a building with graffiti, there is a fine and a caning, or if you decided to partake in drugs, kiss your ass good-bye (punishable by death after your pay the fine). Chewing gum is banned; you can chew it, you just can't buy it, and of course, like all civilized countries, texting and driving will garner you a fine (however I don't think the citizens here know that because this country thrives on cell phones, texting and being connected every moment of the day).

There is one fine I have yet see be enforced which is the one that puts me off my fish ball soup for a week.  It is the one practice in Asia that I hear everywhere that makes my stomach drop.  It is the tell-tale sign of the Spitting Cobra.

"Tell your followers Mr. Irwin, what did you notice before the spitting cobra was about to strike you?"

"Crikey, I believe it was the HHHHHHHHAAAAACCCCKKKKK TOOOOOIE I heard before he attacked."

Everywhere we go, whether it is Chinatown, Little India, Arab Street or the Central Downtown District, I hear the Spitting Cobra about to strike.  I was so looking forward to not enduring loogie hocking as I have before in Hong Kong because it is also a fine.  Well, I say nay nay to that because more often than not, I hear this obnoxious sound at least five times a day.  It is even worse than the good ole-fashioned Canadian Farmer blow on the hockey ice. Nasty.

Dear Singapore Government, I beg you, enforce the anti-spitting law more stringently so this Canadian girl can go back to enjoying a steaming plate of pig organs.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

I'll take two urine samples to go

What I thought was a simple cold has turned into the Honk Kong, Swine or perhaps, Bird flu. Whatever it is, I felt like the grim reaper was knocking on my door.  I couldn't stop coughing and was in so much pain I could barely walk. When  R2 got home from work he decided doctor time was in order so we grabbed a cab and went to the Raffles walk-in clinic. When the nurses saw me they recommended I should be in Emergency.  Probably wanted to make certain I didn't have some Canadian strain of the flu and pass it along to all five million people living here.  I won't go into the gory details, but what gory details I will share is how they do blood samples in Singapore - torture, I tell you, torture.

The service was record-breaking; no waiting for your doctor to arrive and they methodically move to treat the patient in a lighting fast system.  The doc determined I had an infection so he wanted to do all the tests; blood, urine and x-rays. The nurse took over at this point, and her efficiency was frightening. She came into the room to take my blood and this is when the fun started.  I can only tell you what I felt because I couldn't look at her, or the blood.  She stuck the needle into my hand, instead of the usual crook of your elbow. This is the point I saw stars, but to make it so much worse, she kept telling me to squeeze my hand into a fist while she "milked" my arm and squeezed my fist into a hard ball.  She reefed on my fingers so hard, I thought the needle was going to pop out.  Poor R2 was sitting watching and when I finally opened my eyes, he had a look of horror on his green face.  This "milking" of my hand went on for about 3 minutes.  She then put in a tiny IV and started me on some quick acting meds to kill the pain.

If you think this is the end of the story, it isn't.  She came back and told me she didn't get enough blood and had to use the other arm.  I believe this is when I passed out. Luckily she did this one in the elbow crook and it was painless. 

They must do everything in twos because they needed me to get up two times to pee in the little vial, and when I was wheeled to radiation for my x-rays, the 13-year old man/child needed to do produce two x-rays as well.

All in all, the service was quicker and better than anything I have experienced, anywhere in Canada.  The hospital was clean, orderly and very high-tech. I just think they need to brush up on their blood collecting skills.

I noticed signs all over for botox and lypo. I hope that is the next thing I do at Raffles Hospital because they are getting no more blood from me.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Pig Intestines, Fried Fish Head Soup or Mushy Garlic Vegtebles

Singapore is known for its food, in fact, they say, if eating and shopping were an Olympic sport, this tiny island would rank number 1.  It is rare that anyone eats at home.  Every restaurant, coffee shop and local eatery is always hopping, day or night.

While I have been trying to cook in our apartment, the lure of the food often wins out and we find ourselves on the street or in a mall trying local dishes.  Tonight we hustled to Chinatown, trying to beat the rain.  I have managed to get sick in the short time I have been here so I wasn't up for cooking, yet another stir fry in our one frying pan.  We thought tonight was as good as any to try some local fare.

If you haven't been to Asia, you probably are not familiar with Hawkers' Food.  It is local food sold on the street, surrounded by dozens of other Hawkers. We went to a couple of Hawkers areas in Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur in March but I was so revolted I couldn't manage to eat a morsel.

Singapore has a great reputation for cleanliness and they must post their score from the local health inspectors so I thought I could manage to not lose my lunch eating here.  We toured around the facility taking in all the sites and unfamiliar smells. Between the humidity of the day and the intense heat from the cooking, it was sweltering.  We both had a difficult time trying to decipher most of the stalls but luckily they had pictures to help us.  Most of the dishes consisted of heads with eyeballs, ducks hanging by their necks or goose pimpled steamed chicken skin. When I saw the dish for pig intestines, that almost did me in.

We ended up at a Taiwanese station.  The woman spoke no English so we pointed to some fish, minus the head on her little menu, and I completely shied away from anything exotic by having the spicy, chilli beans. My beans were delicious and it was amazing to watch her husband cook them.  He had a huge fire going and poured the beans and chillies into a sizzling wok as the fire roared around him.  How he stood that intense heat, I will never know.  The beans were delicious so now I think I can be a little more adventurous next time.  I am still not going to try the intestines, or the fish eyeballs but maybe duck will make it on my plate in the near future.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Eavesdropping at Thai Massage...

If you have had Thai massage, you know the positions you find yourself in leave little to the imagination and often you release embarrassing groans, or worse, mortifying bodily noises.  My recent massage did neither, but what it did leave me with was a case of the giggles.  I was laying there with my knees behind my head and my arms crossed like pretzels when I heard two men enter the room beside me.  All I could hear was the Thai lady say to the men, "lay down, face up."  And again I heard, "lay down, face up."  The men didn't understand, so as all people do when someone from another country can't understand us, we scream at them, thinking repeating the phrase much louder is going to make them understand.  "LAY DOWN, FACE UP."  This is when I lost it.  She proceeded to ask them, "where from?"  "Japan," was the answer.  "OOOH," was all she said.  Listening to a Thai try to speak English to a Japanese made my day.  My back was still sore, but my soul had a great workout.

"Mr. Rock, Mr. Rock, are you in the building?"

After successfully navigating my way to Chintatown, I popped into a drug store to grab an item.  The till was crowded and cluttered.  The young Malay girl was struggling with my credit and chip; something I have noticed baffles them here, which baffles me, as they are much more security conscience than in Canada. As she fiddled and tried to bring the card reader out for me to log my PIN, a Chinese man in his mid-to-late 50s came beside me to buy a product.  I looked down to see he was buying Mr. Rock.

The first clerk said to the second clerk, "We keep that behind the counter, we keep Mr. Rock off the shelf, you have to bring Mr. Rock out from the drawers."  Each time she said "Mr. Rock" the man's face grew more flushed.  Her voice became louder with each Mr. Rock she mentioned. I believe she was flustered from the credit card, but the poor man beside me was mortified that she announced to all the people in the que that he was buying Mr. Rock.  It may be just me, but I think in Canada we call Mr. Rock, Mr. Viagra.

(Follow Layna in Asia on Mexico on My Mind site for her perspective of travels in Mexico)

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Getting here was easy if you drink enough vino

After worrying  for months and months about packing everything we own into eight suitcases, the trip was a breeze.  It took the typical 15 minutes to arrive at the Regina Airport and 20 minutes for Air Canada to check our luggage all the way to S'pore. Due to R2's status with AC, we hit the lounge for a last minute bevvie before we left for Vancouver.  Once in Vancouver, we headed to Korean Airlines lounge for Executive Class and hung out until we heard our names called. When the lady at KA mentioned to us that they had upgraded us from Business to First Class, and "did we mind," I felt like saying, "hell no, we don't mind." I tried to contain myself. R2 was oblivious to the upgrade because he couldn't understand a word she said.

Once we arrived in Korea after a restful 12 hours in our private capsules, we had the tallest Korean man and the tiniest Korean woman escort us to the next plane, which was already boarding.  Now this is service!

Nothing eventful to report, except for exceptional service on Korean Airlines and a speedy exit through Customs in Singapore.  And wonders of wonders, all of our luggage arrived with not a single problem.  US and Canada, you could learn a thing or two about efficiency from these airlines.

(Follow Layna in Asia on Mexico on My Mind site for her perspective of travels in Mexico)