Category Archives: Adventures outside of Singapore

Nikoi Island

Thursday and Friday with teacher inservice days? Yea! We needed to get out of here, so luckily, back in March I booked a four day get-away at Nikoi Island.

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Nikoi is a small Indonesian island, leased by three expat couples in 2004. They had a vision, and saw it though, and today, it’s booked months and months in advance. Back in March, when I started looking at the place, there was a cancellation and we got lucky that it worked for us … Must be my two gold Fortune Cats?

To get here, we took a ferry from Singapore to island Bintam, Indonesia. From there we had a nearly 2 hour car ride to the other side of the island, where we then took a fast boat to Nikoi Island. When I say the journey is part of the adventure, I am not kidding. When leaving Singapore, there was a sudden tropical storm, with heavy rain going sideways as we were getting on the ferry. The large boat was rocking back and forth, front to back, side to side, while tethered to the dock.

This girl gets car sick when going around a curve too fast, so this was not how I wanted to start off our holiday. I sat in my front row seat on the ferry, pressing on my pressure points on my wrists, watching other passengers try to navigate their way on to the boat, which was literally tossing people down the aisles. It was hard not to giggle, I had never seen anything like it!

But not long after, the blue skies came out, and after traveling only a few hours, we found ourselves on a nearly deserted island that was very much “Disney-like”. It was magical.

We had a two bedroom bungalow, right on the beach. No windows, no air con. We had the warm ocean breeze at night, mosquito netting, and the sound of the waves and far-off chatter of the local fisherman out on the sea.

Waking up in the morning, the view from our bed was something that we will never forget.

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We spent our days snorkeling in the crystal clear water, jumping on the water trampoline, kayaking, paddle boarding, and jumping off the pier. The boys went fishing for squid from a kayak at sunset with Boyan, one of the locals who work on Nikoi. Cale and I saw a tuna darting into the shallow water (about 15 feet) from the drop off into the deep water, where it plummeted down to nearly 100 feet. That was so exciting, to see the flash of silver as it darted by us.

But most exciting was when I was off snorkeling with Maria, and we saw a large squid! It was about the size of a beach ball … and in our books, that is HUGE!! Maria spotted it first, and terrified me with her horrendous scream that I heard from under the water. I thought the girl saw a shark, my heart was out of control, pounding so hard I could hardly breathe. In a quick moment we went from playing with little Nemo fish to chasing a large squid through the reefs. Our fun didn’t last too long, we had no idea that squid camouflage themselves!

When the tide went out, there were sea cucumbers everywhere! I have never seen one of these before, so of course I had to investigate, and I convinced Cale to pick one up. Almost immediately he was ‘slimed’ by the thing, which was super gross, but totally cool at the same time.

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I have been told by my friend Wayan in Bali that these sea cucumbers are very expensive at fine restaurants. There is nothing you could do to get me to eat one of these, let alone pay loads of money to have it served up to me. No thank you.

Here is Cale on his first attempt to pick up a sea cucumber. This video is so funny, because I nearly fall, the cucumber pees, and to top it off, Maria’s cracks me up.

Meals were served in the dining hall, with sand under our feet. Here’s a picture of a fruit platter … ever hear of “dragon fruit” ? This is how they posted the upcoming meals, at lunch the dinner menu was posted, etc. But what on earth were they serving??

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One late afternoon, the boys were fishing off the pier, Maria was snorkeling, and I was searching for shells … this is what I found!

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A giant shell!! This bombshell weighs nearly 6 pounds!! I put a dinner fork inside the shell so you can see how big this shell is!!

The boys caught tropical fish with bamboo rods,

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and when we were all bored with that, suddenly we all found ourselves jumping off the end of the pier!

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Here’s 7 second video that sums it up … thought I was taking a snapshot, but in fact I was video taping. Is that even a word anymore?? video taping? Clearly I am technology challenged, and the very fact that I can even manage this blog is a miracle!!

http://www.Nikoi.com

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Sydney Australia in April

Okay, I’m a bit behind on my posting. I’m only up to April!! Yikes! I am going to do my best to get caught up, so in the next few days, you will see lots of new blog posts!

Our flight left Singapore at 2 am on a Saturday morning. Which to the kids, is really just very late Friday night. They had school all day, then swim practice, then the boys had a friend come over to the house. We left our condo for the airport at 11 pm. Needless to say, the kids were exhausted. After fueling up on a last minute footlong from Subway

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and yes, I threatened Shane with his life if he dared to stow some of that sandwich in his backpack and try to bring it into Australia. Don’t know what I am talking about? Then see this post from December:

https://blinkmanbuzz.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/watch-list/

The kids were out cold in the airport while waiting for that flight.

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Sydney in April, it’s everything we could have dreamt of. Our first night in town, we were lucky to stay in the Harbour. We were on the 33rd floor of the Shangri La Hotel, and we had the most awesome view of the harbour. I could have sat at the window all day looking out at this view!

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Isn’t it gorgeous?? Well, the sun didn’t last long, because that afternoon we were on an America’s Cup Sailboat cruising in Darling Harbour, and it was overcast, cold and raining. It rained the entire time we were on the boat. We all had a blast anyhow, a little rain doesn’t’ get in our way of a good time.

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We cruised right past the Opera House!

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I kept thinking about Finding Nemo, isn’t that just crazy?? I was thinking about all the little fishes in the water, and of course I asked my new friend Captain Peter ( pronounced “Pete-ah” ) and he told me all kinds of stories about sharks in the harbor. One story was about a Navy diver who was cleaning up and working on the props on one of the military ships and he was attacked by a shark, it bit his leg clean off. Another story was that there was a study launched to see how many sharks were actually in the harbor, they were given two years to catch and tag sharks, and they were shocked to be able to finish the study within only two months, because they actually caught their quota that quickly. So yes, there are sharks in the Harbour.

Here’s a selfie of me and Pete-ah

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This was our only true day of sight seeing, because the next day the Australian National Swim Meet began, and we were staying in an apartment that we rented for the week.

The same time of the swim meet, the Royal Easter Show was also occurring, all at the Sydney Olympic Park. We had heard that Prince William and Duchess Kate, and Prince George were all in Australia for the week, and were expected to make an appearance at the Royal Easter Show. I was so excited, I really wanted to see the royal couple. When the day came, however, I chose to stay at the swim meet, sitting around for hours and hours to see Shane swim about 3 minutes. Maria and Cale, however, walked over to see if they might be able to catch a glimpse of the pair. Keep in mind that the Royal Easter Show is HUGE, comparable to a State Fair in the USA. I thought that there was no way my two kids would get lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, and be able to push their way through the crowds.

Well, I was wrong.

They did in fact see Prince William and Duchess Kate. Here is a video they were able to take.

I nearly cried when I saw this, Maria and Cale were so excited, but very casual, when they told me about their adventure. I was so happy for them, but so so so sad for myself. It IS after all, about me. And I missed my opportunity to see the Royal couple!!!! I’m still kind of mad about this. Wouldn’t you be too??

Later in the week, we were able to take an afternoon that we were free and we made the quick trek to the famous Bondi Beach. It’s pronouced “Bond-I”, not “Bond-E”, by the way.

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This place is known all over the country for how gorgeous this beach is, and also for the show on television “Bondi Rescue” where the lifeguards are constantly saving really dumb beachgoers who are completely unaware of what rip currents are. It’s quite funny in fact, and if you ever get the chance to watch it, you must.

http://tenplay.com.au/channel-ten/bondi-rescue

Here is a picture of Maria with two of the guards who are on the show.

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It was very windy and kind of cold, but Cale braved the weather and did some body surfing. I was terrified the entire time, never took my eyes off of him, because the week prior to our visit, a lady was attacked and killed by a shark on this very beach!!!

http://www.closeronline.co.uk/2014/04/woman-killed-in-shark-attack-whilst-taking-daily-swim-across-bay#.U6JQMRZsoTM

After surviving his swim, we took some photos in front of the famous lifeguard station, watching this artist spray paint the wall, bought some souvenirs, lost Trents credit card (which we were able to get deactivated before it was even used), collected some sand in a gatorade bottle for our sand collection, and made it back to our rented apartment without missing a beat.

We all totally loved our visit to Bondi Beach, and highly recommend taking the time to visit this iconic beach.

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Lastly, I have to say we LOVE the birds in Australia. The lorikeets and white cockatoos make such a racket beginning at 4:30 am, it’s unbearable. And I absolutely loved it.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulphur-crested_cockatoo

And here are a couple pictures of some other crazy looking birds! How can you not love them!!

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This was our third visit to Australia, and it was just as amazing as our first two visits! We love the Australians, they are warm and welcoming, with their no-worries laid back attitudes!

http://www.shangri-la.com/Sydney
http://www.sailingsydney.net/Sailing-Sydney-Americas-Cup-sailing-experience.html
http://www.eastershow.com.au
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bondi_Beach,_New_South_Wales
http://www.bondivillage.com

Bangalore, India

Trent travels all over Asia for his work.  He leaves Sunday evening and returns on Friday evening.  He regularly travels to Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and India.  Some of these places he loves and enjoys (Hong Kong) and some others he doesn’t care to go to much.

As you know, this girl really loves to explore, meet new people, and find adventure.  I would LOVE to travel with Trent on his trips, and I finally convinced him to take me with him to India.

Two months in advance I applied for my Visa to enter India, I was so excited!!  We were planning to spend nearly a week in Bangalore.  The kids had school, and Leny would look after them while we would be gone.   Just to get a Visa into India was $350 Sing dollars! Wow!

The only part of this trip that I was not looking forward to was the flight, as only two days prior to our departure the flight from Malaysia went missing.  Kuala Lumpur in only a few hours away from Singapore, a little too close for comfort for us ( yes, Trent regularly flies in and out of KL).  Most of the hubbies here in Sing travel all the time as well, and the fear from that missing flight rippled throughout the expat community with lightening speed.  I was not looking forward to our 5 hour flight across the Indian Ocean, the same path the lost flight was suspected to take.

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Thankful for God’s traveling mercies, we landed safely around 1 am in Bangalore, and from that moment when we left the airport, I was completely in love with India.

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Trent was working all week, locked up in meetings from morning until late at night.  I spent my days exploring this colorful country.  My first day there I walked.  I walked and walked, and then walked even further.  I would wander into local shops,  stand on a busy local corner and people watch, grab some fresh fruit or a piece of corn from a stand on the street, just soaking in the bright beautiful colors of these people, their happy chatter, their playfulness.

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The next two days I had a private tour arranged with a local gal, Kaveri Singh, who owns and operates Bluefoot Tours.  I immediately liked Kaveri, with her warm smile and friendly nature, we immediately became friends.  Kaveri took me to the places that tourists don’t normally get to see, the things that only the locals know of.

 

First up, on our way out, she had the driver pull over, as there was an old lady sitting along the side of the highway that she wanted me to meet.  Our driver backed up on this major roadway, which in itself was exciting.  We hopped out of the car, and Kaveri spoke to the old lady in her language, while I stood nearby.  It turns out the lady is a psychic … actually her parrots are the psychics.  But the lady was visibly upset, as one of her parrots was confiscated that morning by the Wildlife Commission.  Her other parrot was at home, and next thing I knew, she was in the front seat of the car with us and we were taking her to her home.  When I had Kaveri ask how old she was, her response was “60 to 70 years old”, which I though was hysterically funny.  I just couldn’t believe that this little old lady, who was obviously high from something that she continued to chew on, would just climb into the car with complete strangers.

Once at her home, I sat on the floor with her, and her parrot was released from it’s cage, and it proceeded to pull out (tarot) cards, which the old lady than read for me.  It was fascinating, especially since it was done with three different sets of cards, and I had the exact same reading each time.  My fortune was 2/3 good … and 1/3 not so good.  The old lady advised that we go to the black magic temple to have a spell done.  ???  What!!!

 

 

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Next up on the agenda was visiting a meditation temple, drinking fresh coconut milk straight from the coconut,

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visiting a shop where I chose my own silk and printed it with print blocks and ink (usually done for saris, but I did two table runners),

 

 

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we had lunch at a local coffee shop,  a visit to a snake temple (India used to have 400 lakes, which bred all kinds of diseases, so the lakes were filled in, displacing all the cobras.  So in order to keep the cobras happy, there is a temple devoted to them, to honor them and keep them happy).

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Kaveri took me into the slums, where she helped to found Janakiram Layout, organization to empower women by teaching them crafts and selling them, ultimately helping them to break out of poverty.  The women organize themselves … some babysit all their children, while others collect tetrapak containers from the garbage, clean them, cut them, and then they weave them into beautiful bags and baskets, and then they sell them to make income for their families.   I bought two purses, gave one to Leny, who loves it.  We both carry our “garbage purses” and get compliments on them everywhere we go.

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When we were leaving, Kaveri noticed that there was a pile of their scraps and tetrapak waste that was thrown back out into the garbage.  She went right back into the girls and talked to them about it, the cleaning up has to start somewhere, and couldn’t they think of a better way to dispose of their rubbish rather than just toss it out the back?

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The day I was there, an expat lady from the Netherlands,  living in India,  was there teaching the women how to use a sewing machine.  If the ladies could learn to do their own sewing, then they wouldn’t have to outsource the final sewing on their purses, and would make more per money.

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Next we visited the KR wholesale flower market, where loads and loads of fresh flowers are brought in every morning.

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The flowers are then weaved into long garlands, which are then cut and sold.  Every single flower is sold by the end of the after noon.  I was stunned to learn that this happens every single day!!  Thousands and thousands of flowers each day!  The Indians use the flowers to decorate the entrance to their homes, temples, their cars, cows, oxen, everything!

Everyone knew Kaveri, as they all wanted to talk to her, as she just had a sweet baby girl two months earlier.  Everyone wanted to see pictures of her baby!

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We visited a cemetery where we watched a funeral,

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visited the black magic temple that was in the cemetery …oh yes I did.

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I visited the black magic temple.  And it was very creepy.  Kaveri told me that the leaders of this temple have to be female.  So if a male wants to be part of this, yes, they castrate themselves. Not kidding, they castrate themselves.  Kaveri gives me a quick look around, shows me the “tree” .

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The story of the tree is that, say, for example,  someone at work is getting promoted over you, or your rival in swimming is always faster than you.  Then you take something personal from that person, say a tie, or hanky, or goggles, and bring it to the tree, tie it on, and then bad luck will fall on that person.  Instead of praying that you will do better or be faster, you instead pray for bad things to happen to your opponent.  Yikes.

Then I noticed that there were dogs and goats everywhere.  Well, to be fair, there are stray dogs everywhere in India.  But here in this black magic temple, the goats and dogs are sacrificed, yup, right here.

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Then the head person, she cast a protective spell on me … by lighting a piece of paper, dropping a lime and stomping on it, then throwing a raw egg into the graveyard.

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I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh or cry, and before I knew it, Kaveri had me back in the car and on our way out of the cemetery, before the “zombies” could catch us (the cemetery workers who came to our car window to beg for money)

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Tomorrow I will add some of my favorite photos of India!  This country and it’s people are so colorful, it’s a photographers dream!  To end this blog post on a good note, please click on the following link to learn more about the Janakiram Layout of Bangalore.

http://csa.christuniversity.in/php/csa_contents.php?contentid=ODI=&captionflag=S

Australian Christmas! Happy 2014 from the Gold Coast

Okay, it’s mid-March. And I am FINALLY getting blogging about our holiday in Australia.  The part that started AFTER our adventure in the airport with our illegal Subway sandwiches.   Our rented condo was in Surfers Paradise,  right on the ocean.  From our 12th floor balcony, we had a view of miles and miles and miles of the Coral Sea.  And it was glorious.

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Every morning we play in the waves until we couldn’t stand any longer, let me tell you, the most ferocious waves ever.   The boys tried out their surfing skills,  and even Trent and I took a swing at it.  Hours and hours and hours of playing in the water and on the beach.

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In the afternoon, we entertained ourselves at Wet N Wild Water Park, Dream World Amusement Park, and twice to Sea World.  Always ready for a great selfie photo, we met this man in the parking lot directing traffic, and on a dare from the kids, this is the pic I snapped.    Can you believe the kids didn’t think I would do it??

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We also went in search of kangaroos and koala bears, which we found exactly zero.  Oh we saw the signs along the road, even stopped to take our pictures with the signs.  But no kangaroos or koalas.

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On Christmas morning, we went again in search of the mysterious unseen kangs and koalas, and instead found a watering hole, where we stopped for a picnic.  The boys jump off of cliffs with some of the locals, and I was bird spotting.  Saw this giant bird, squawking away, and found out it was what the locals call a “Jack Ass” …  a Kookaburra!  From then on I was in search of more Kookaburras, which I found were everywhere.  Dance Kookaburra, Dance Kookaburra!

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Our favorite was Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where we finally saw the kangaroos and koalas!

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We are so blessed, Trent and I brought in the new year on the beach in Australia, another dream come true!

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Cottesloe, Perth

Our last afternoon in Perth,  we totally enjoyed this beach.  The kids new Aussie friend Brody recommended Cottesloe Beach, said it was one of the nicest around.  He was right.  This beach is famous for it’s terraced lawns overlooking the Indian Ocean.   The water was crystal clear, the powdery sand had a few shells, and the waves were gentle.  What a beautiful place to live!!

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There were many people at this beach, but most were hugging the shoreline, not going out far, despite the smooth water and lack of riptides.   We did notice a couple of swimmers who were getting in their workouts, swimming horizontal to the beach, swimming their freestyle in the ocean.   It was so peaceful, we just wanted to stay.  I could live in this beach town happily.

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On our way out, we stopped at a small general store across the street from the beach, looking for any type of souvenir, when I just happened to see the headlines in the newspaper.   The article was about how there is this group of senior citizens who brave the ocean every single day at dawn, to get their exercise in.  They call themselves “the chorus line” .   The article was about how most locals do not go to the beach as they used to, because recently there was a great white shark attack at this very beach where a swimmer was killed.  They knew it was a great white because they analyzed his speedo that washed up on shore.

What???  Right here on Cottesloe Beach?!?  A quick scan of the article and I read that there have been 11 fatal shark attacks in as many years right there in Western Australia.  Yikes!!   Holy smokes, that is really scary!

And my girl Maria, you know how crazy she is, she’s afraid a shark is gonna attack her in a swimming pool, this was too much for her.  She was done, no longing looks back at the ocean, no asking to stay just a few minutes longer, she was ready to go, she was done with the beach.

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UPDATE:  My sweet Aunt Vera sent me a note about the recent protests on this very beach.  I am posting a link to the news article.  It’s a must read!

 http://au.news.yahoo.com/a/21207700/wa-shark-cull-thousands-gather-at-cottesloe-beach-as-catch-and-kill-protests-ramp-up/