Monday, 23 May 2016

Our new home in Singapore

So we had been sending emails back and forth to our realtor and Phil's relocation company during our two weeks in Thailand in an effort to get the condo signed off and sorted as soon as possible.

We arrived in Singapore at about 1pm, and at 2pm we met our realtor at the condo, signed all the paperwork and collected the keys. We are so bloody lucky sometimes.

To say we are excited would be an understatement. Not only are we moving to Singapore, but we will be living together for the first time! Our apartment is amazing, and nothing we could ever have dreamed of having in the UK.

View of Singapore city

We kicked back on our balcony with a takeaway from Crusts (Singapore's best pizza), drunk champagne, and went for a late night swim.

It was the perfect way to spend our last night together as Phil then flew to Melbourne for work, and I flew back to the UK for a family wedding, to pack up my things and to get ready for the move!

We will both fly back to Singapore together at the end of June and we cannot wait to start the next chapter of our adventure together.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Koh Tao & Koh Samui

We travelled down from Chiang Mai to Koh Tao where we had booked on to an SSI Open Water Diving Course at Roctopus Dive.

In a way I'm a bit surprised we managed to have such a great time on Koh Tao as we seemed to accumulate new injuries daily during our time on the island.

On our first day we decided to head to one of the beaches and snorkel with some black tipped sharks. The snorkelling was amazing but I quickly managed to cut my hands and soles of my feet on the sharp coral whilst Phil was busy building up a red raw burn from the sun.

We then hired a moped as we thought it would save time and taxi money getting to and from our dive course every day as it was on the other side of the island... Of course, I immediately crashed it, resulting in most of our bodies being covered in cuts, scratches and bruises.

The following day we began our Open Water course and, as luck would have it, I then perforated my ear drum due to the water pressure. By the next day all our cuts were infected and both Phil and I had the beginnings of ear infections.

Despite all of this - we had the time of our lives. Koh Tao is one of the most beautiful places either of us have been to. Every morning we woke up to the turquoise sea and cloudless sky over Freedom Beach, and each evening we watched the sun burning orange, red and purple over the horizon.

Freedom Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand
Freedom Beach view from our balcony
Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand
Sunset on Sairee Beach

The food was also delicious, most of all the out-of-this-world fish platter at Barracudas near Sairee beach. Too much fresh fish to know what to do with.

Roctopus Dive were a 5* dive school and we are thrilled we completed our Open Water with them. They take groups of up to 4 people per instructor so we were well looked after the whole time. Our instructor Mick was fun, patient and so passionate about diving it was hard not to feel the same fire in our bellies by the end of our course.

Our first day consisted of pool training, day two was our written exam followed by two 12m dives, and finally on day three we did two 18m dives and became certified Open Water Divers! We had heard a lot about Big Blue dive school, but they take large groups and it seems a bit of a factory - churning new divers out day by day. I would recommend Koh Tao to anyone who is thinking of doing an Open Water course, and there is no better dive school to learn with than Roctopus. 

We left Koh Tao the following morning and spent a couple of nights at a beautiful air bnb on Koh Samui which had views of the ocean and mountains.

Koh Samui

We had just one day left in Thailand so followed a friends recommendation and booked onto a tour to AngThon Marine Park where we kayaked and relaxed before flying back to Singapore the next day.

Kayaking, Angthon Marine Park, Thailand

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Chiang Rai & Chiang Mai

Back in 2014, I travelled around a bit of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam with a pal and adored it, so was keen for Phil to experience some of things I had seen and done, and also do some new stuff together. Phil was able to take another two weeks off work so we booked an outbound flight to Chiang Rai in the North, and a return flight two weeks later from Koh Samui, an island in the South.

We arrived in Chiang Rai in the evening just in time for the Sunday food market. We ate lots of new street food (including our first taste of grasshoppers!) and watched some traditional live music and dancing. The following day we visited the famous White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) which was beautiful. It reminded me a little of Rivendell from Lord of the Rings, but maybe that's just me.

White Temple, Chiang Rai
White Temple, Chiang Rai

Later that day be got a tuk tuk down to Chiang Mai where we tried the city's local dish - Kao Soy - and shopped in the Night Bazaar where we bought hundreds of Thai pants at £3 each - what a barg.

The following day was spent at a farm with the Asia Scenic cookery school. It was great that Phil and I were able to learn how to cook some Thai dishes together as we are now really excited about cooking some of them again when we live together in Singapore. We made (and ate) spring rolls, Pad Thai, soup, curry and banana fritters before rolling back to our hostel.

Asia Scenic Cookery School, Chiang Mai
Asia Scenic cookery school

We spent two more days in Chiang Mai at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary a few hours drive north of Chiang Mai. We were lucky enough to be with a great group of people so had a good laugh and some interesting conversations. We had a similar mindset about going on this particular tour - we had all heard so many horrible stories about elephants which are treated badly out here; poked with sharp sticks, made to do tricks, and ridden by tourists. This particular tour was based at an elephant sanctuary where two families of elephants had been rescued from being abused at another camp. We could all tell immediately how happy the elephants were; as we fed them, bathed with them and washed them.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
Elephant hugs and kisses

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
Mud bath with the gang

The rest of the group headed back to Chiang Mai but Phil and I stayed the night with one of the families up there in the mountains. We spent the evening playing with kids in a waterfall and eating and chatting with our host Mr Somm until nightfall.

Waking up to the sound of clucking chickens, snuffling pigs and barking dogs in the middle of the mountains was surprisingly wonderful. We both felt kind of liberated being so far away from phone signal, cars and buildings.

Waking up with nature

After breakfast Mr Somm and the two of us took one of the elephants on a walk through the jungle along the river. Another surreal experience as the huge, pregnant elephant daintily stepped through narrow pathways and river crossings.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

The two days we spent at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was something we will both remember forever and we now both have a new-fangled love for these gentle giants.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Drink, hangover, repeat.

A little hungover after the wine and cocktails at MBS the night before, we took a dip in the infinity pool in the morning to wake ourselves up then explored the Gardens by the Bay together.

We spent pretty much a full day wandering through the Cloud Forest, the Flower Dome, the Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes and were completely awe-struck by the towering, vertical gardens of Supertree Grove. For a small fee you can walk along the OCBC skyway and, although it's a little surreal to be 50m up a giant man-made tree, the views right across Marina Bay Sands are well worth it.

Supertree Grove, Gardens by the Bay

Supertree Grove, Gardens by the BayCloud Forest, Gardens by the BayFlower Dome at Gardens by the Bay

Both Phil and I have been thinking about the kind of things we want to do here to make meet people, make new friends and also have some fun. He is keen to join a football team and I've been thinking about joining an AmDram group. By chance, one of the larger AmDram groups called Stage Club were showing a performance of the History Boys the following evening so we booked tickets and headed along to the KC Arts Centre.

The show was so fantastic, didn't feel like they were amateurs at all really and the theatre was packed out. I am going to express my interest for being part of their next production - fingers crossed!

After the History Boys we headed to 1 Altitude at Raffles Place to meet Phoebe and her colleagues. I feel like a broken record as I'm aware I'm saying how fantastic everything is, but.. wow.. 1 Altitude was incredible. It's an open air, 365 degree club on the 63rd floor which makes even Marina Bay Sands Hotel look tiny. We all had such a fun night of drinking and dancing until we could drink or dance no more.

View from 1 Altitude
 View from 1 Altitude

We woke up to another hangover and our final day in Singapore before heading onto Thailand for a two week holiday.

A couple of friends, Amy and Matt, were in Singapore on holiday so we met for a delicious dinner at a tapas-style Indian restaurant called Coriander Leaf in Chijmes.  We then headed around the corner to Raffles Long Bar for a Singapore Sling, because, why not.
Raffles Singapore Sling, Long Bar
Singapore Slings @ Raffles

Knowing the four of us were cheese-fiends I had booked a table at Club 55 in Tower 1 of Marina Bay Sands Hotel. In case you were wondering, Club 55 is an all-you-can-eat chocolate and cheese paradise. They had everything you could want so we filled our bellies again until we couldn't move.

Club 55, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, chocolate and cheese buffetClub 55, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, chocolate and cheese buffet
It was so great to be able to see Amy and Matt whilst we were in Singapore and they loved it so much they have already said they want to visit again later in the year - yay!

Friday, 6 May 2016

So many emotions.

Day 12 in Singapore was a real roller coaster.

I had an interview for an events role at an international school at midday, so I spent the morning prepping and getting nervous for that. I think the interview went alright but got the impression they had already filled the role so left feeling a little disappointed. I'm not sure when I'll hear back but my hopes aren't high.

Phil had asked me to pack a bag the night before with something smart, something casual and swim wear and to meet  him at the cable car to Sentosa Island after my interview. Needless to say, as soon as I had left the interview I was buzzing for what the rest of the day had in store!

We got the cable car over to Sentosa and spent a good chunk of the afternoon being big-kids.. whizzing along the 450m MegaZip wire, racing each other on the Luge and showing off on the flying trapeze. Sentosa really is just one massive playground. They also have a Universal Studios and waterpark there too which might be something we pop back to do another time.

Whilst we were queuing for the zip wire, we received an email from our realtor telling us that our offer on the Holland Hill condo had been accepted and it was all systems go to get all the paperwork signed off. We are still BUZZING. We wangled the price down a lot and the landlord has thrown in a new bed and mattress for good measure :)

Cable car to Sentosa
The cable car to Sentosa

MegaZip Wire
MegaZip Wire

Flying Trapeze

As dusk neared Phil said we had to go as had somewhere to be which he had arranged as a surprise... so we hopped into a cab and Phil asked the driver to take us to... wait for it... Marina Bay Sands Hotel. WTactualF.

We checked into our room on the 38th floor, and, as we entered the room, the curtains opened to reveal the most spectacular sunset over the city.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel
The view from our hotel room

We headed up to the infinity pool on the 57th floor and basked in the beauty of it all as the sun set and the city lights came alive.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Marina Bay Sands Hotel
Marina Bay Sands Hotel infinity pool

Once our fingers were sufficiently prune-like we spruced up and had dinner at Wolfgang Puck's Spago restaurant at Sands SkyPark where we got suitably drunk on Sancerre and Martinis.

It really was crazy day. The nerves of the interview, the excitement of moving to a new country and getting a home together, the adrenaline rush on Sentosa and the pure joy and awe of staying at Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

A day neither of us will never forget for sure.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Week 2 - exploring Singapore

On Saturday we headed over to East Coast Park, rented some bikes and cycled around for a couple of hours, working up a bit of a sweat in the 36c heat! Phil taught me to cycle with no hands - possibly one of my biggest achievements this year..

East Cost Park

We then stumbled into Little India, spotting some fun umbrella trees before getting lost in the extremely busy and intimidating, 400,000 sq ft department store called the Mustafa Centre. (Top tip: DO NOT GO ON A WEEKEND).

Little India
Umbrella Tree

In the evening we had set up a bit of a blind double-date (an intro through a friend of a friend) with a lovely couple who treated us to drinks at Rabbit Carrot Gun on the East Coast Road. Not only were they a fun couple to get to know, but Phil's going to join the guys football team and they've also put me in touch with someone who works in International Development which I'm really interested in being involved with over here.

We treated ourselves to another terrific brunch on Sunday at a little place called Jones's on Dempsey Hill. Dempsey Hill seems like a pretty cool place as it's an old army base with a few little quirky shops and eateries. The brunch we had was absolutely delicious so will be back there in a heartbeat I'm sure.

Jones the Grocer
The Brunch of Champions

We then braved ION at Orchard which was productive albeit a little stressful. Shopping on Orchard reminded me a little of shopping on Oxford Street, but just a tad hotter. Not somewhere I want to be popping back to on the regular.

Later in the evening we headed up to Fort Canning Park and watching an open-air theatre production of Romeo & Juliet. The actors captivated the several hundred of us watching and Phil and I both loved it. The MBS light show began right over the top of the park, really brining it home for a moment that we were indeed sitting in the middle of a park in Singapore watching Romeo and Juliet. Another slightly surreal one for us I think.

Shakespeare in the Park
Shakespeare in the Park
Phil had this whole week off work so we were able to spend the days together. We planned a full day of condo hunting on Monday and we knew immediately that a condo on Holland Hill was the one for us. The condo is minutes away from two MRTs and Holland Village has a good strip of restaurants, as well as a couple of Hawker Centres and a supermarket so a great location for us. We put an offer on immediately and are buzzing for it.

We went to a couple of other amazing restaurants this week. The first called Level 33 which is in Tower 1 of MBS Hotel. It's the best meal I've eaten in Singpore by far and cannot wait to go back there.
Level 33
My delicious venison dinner at Level 33

The other delicious meal was at Latteria which is on Duxton Hill. Latteria is a mozzarella restaurant so every starter and main is cheese based - I never knew there were so many types of mozzarella but knowing this has made my life just that little bit happier.