Adelaide, SA – Part 3

Adelaide seems to be one of the forgotten cities in Australia.  It seems forgotten as not many people outside this country have heard anything about it, and within Australia it seems to be bypassed by just about everybody, they go to Perth or Melbourne, of course Sydney, maybe Brisbane but not Adelaide.  We have not yet seen the other ones so I cannot really compare this city to any other in Australia at this point but this city is

Adelaide Skyline

very comfortable, it does have more of a country feel.  Its streets are very wide, there is practically no traffic jams.  It has a very good climate, albeit a bit on the dry side.  There does not seem to be any particular rush even during lunchtime in the CBD people do not seem to be overly stressed, there is no hectic.

The downtown area is also very compact, we walked along the Torrens river and the view as you can see in the pictures is very nice.  The walk around the river is very pretty, everything is green as the city uses recycled water as of late to water the parks.  There were lots of birds everywhere, I could not believe that we were in the immediate downtown area and there was absolutely no noise, it was very serene and relaxing.

We went to the Central Market, which describes itself as the “heart

Adelaide Skyline

Beth and Ben

of Adelaide”.  It is a very colorful place, with lots of stalls selling all kinds of foods along side with different cafes.  It is interesting as it was bustling, a very stark contrast to the city outside.  Chinatown is next to the market and we choose a place to have lunch were the signs were illegible, it is mostly a safe bet that the food is going to be more authentic than the food you get in other places.  The quality was excellent and the prices were quite good.

The Central Market

Victoria Square looking north

It was a really hot day but we wanted to walk the center of Adelaide, the famous Victoria Square.  Adelaide has a nice practical grid layout and although I have a navigation system to guide me to wherever we want to go I have by now gotten the basics and I can navigate the city without any issues.  Down here they say: no worries mate!  The grid is centered on Victoria Square, all the streets radiate from there and right in the middle of the square, actually it has a diamond shape, is a big statue of Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria, err a statue of hers, actually.One of the things that I have noticed and I have not really found an explanation yet is the sizes of different drinks.  In Australia a can of coke has 375ml in Europe or the US it has something like 335ml.  There are bottles of water with 1.25l, we do not have them anything like that, the same goes for yoghurts, butter, and an array of other products the sizes are just a little bit different than what I have seen in Europe and the US.  I wonder who decides on those things and what the rationale is behind a can of soda having 375ml or 335ml?  Is it economics?  Anyhow, this is no biggie but still a bit odd.

So long…

Here are some random videos of the past few weeks.

Our first Outback Experience – Part 2

Although we had seen signs warnings us of Kangaroos we had not seen one yet but as soon as we turned off the main road to head to Wilpena Pound Resort (a fancy name for an excellent motel that was trying to be more than it should) we saw Emus and Kangaroos. There is something to be said about being in a place where wild animals still roam free and along side humans.  Outside the reception area there

Ben and Beth, it was getting warm

was a place where many Kangaroos had gathered and many of the guests were taking pictures.  We arri

St. Mary's Peak, 1170m

ved just in time to see the General Store and the Visitors Center close.  Why does everything in Australia close so early?  We booked a scenic flight over the area at the reception for early next morning.  We choose the 30 minute flight that took us around the Wilpena Pound as well as the Elder Range, Edeowie Gorge, Heysen Range, Lake Torrens (no water, only salt), Bunyeroo Gorge, Brachina Gorge, St Mary Peak and the Pound Gap.

Woke up early, we had to get Ben out of bed at 7am but he took like a champ.  The airstrip was only a couple k’s away, of course like most airstrips around here it was not

The plane landing

sealed, there were a few Cessnas parked but no one to be seen but a few kangaroos crossing the landing strip.  That raised a eyebrow, how do you swerve around a kangaroo when you go full throttle ready to take off?  It was not long before the plane, a Cessna 182 landed and a young pilot, Hayden flashed us a sm

Beware of Emus crossing the road

ile and welcomed us in the plane with just four seats.  I asked him about the kangaroos, in the typical nonchalant aussie tone he told me not to worry.  Those of you who know me know that I have flown many times but flying in this little plane was a new experience.  It was a pleasant short flight with spectacular views an amazing landscape.  A landscape that formed millions of years ago, an ancient landscape that is unlike any other.  A landscape that was hidden away to anyone outside the aborigines, until the late 1800s.

Ben was sleeping!

When we landed half an hour later the temperature had risen considerably, the swings in temperature is amazing.  We had seen the area from above and realized that we needed a 4WD in order to see some of the spectacular gorges so we inquired at the visitor’s center.  They told us to head up to Blinman and ask at the hotel.  We also decided to postpone the hike into the pound for the next morning, by the time we would have reached the Wangara Lookout it would be mid-day and that is too hot for walking and too sunny to take good pictures.  We then spend the next few hours lounging around the hotel, we had coffee and I finally had a Punch Punch!  It had been a long time since I had a good cigar like that; Ben had his mid-day nap and sometime in the

I was carrying the water and the nappies!

afternoon we drove north to Blinman.  Blinman is about 60km north of Wilpena Pound and it is the highest town in South Australia, in the 1850s they found copper in the area.  You can check a 360 picture of the main street here.  We wanted to check the general store, despite the fact that it was still 4pm, the store had closed as business was slow on that particular day.  We decided to head for the hotel and see about that 4WD.  The hotel was really nice and the coffee was really good.  Unfortunately, a rainstorm caught up with us and it was a bad one.  We were advised to head back to the hotel quickly as flash floods would cut off our way south.  True enough when we reached our hotel we were told that there were people stuck in Blinman, the extend of the flash floods only became apparent on our way back to Adelaide a couple days later.  On our way back we stopped at some locations and took pictures on some lookouts.  I was lucky

Ben after his nap, Beth after reaching the first marker.

enough to get a nice picture of the storm that was brewing over Blinman that I posted on my last posting.  By the time we returned to the hotel rain had caught up with us again.  There was not much to do but go to the bar have a beer and meet the many Germans and French that seemingly were the only nationalities present.  It is interesting but we have met so many people from Europe travelling in Australia. I guess there are so many interesting things to see and down under.

Early in the morning we got ready and after checking with the visitors center about the weather and the general condition, it was still cloudy and wet, we headed into the direction of the Pound.  The first 3.3 km would take us through a very easy walking trail, the last 600 meters would be a steep walk up to an altitude of 900m to the two Wangara Lookouts.  The view from the Lookouts was breathtaking. Throughout the walk we met again many Germans, if anything had gone wrong we would have been ok as we speak

The view from the Wangara Lookout

their language.  One thing that we were warned about were the flies and we got our first encounter during the walk, we have never seen so many flies.  They tell us that it will get worse when we travel to the red center, so we have bought fly nets for us, we are not sure yet what we can do for Ben as he did not like the net.  We did the walk in 2 1/2 hours by the time we were back the temperature had risen

Mother and son with a Kangaroo in the distance.

considerably, so we headed back to the air conditioned room.  In  the afternoon we drove around on sealed roads as we did are not allowed to take our hired car on non paved road.  We went and took pictures of the Cazneaux tree, named after the famous Australian photographer who immortalized it in 1937 with his

The Cazneaoux tree

depiction of it called “The Spirit of Endurance”.  These gum trees are magnificent, they were here long before we were born and they will outlive all of us.  Here looking at the Cazneaux tree with the Pound in the background one realizes the land itself is ancient, the formations that we saw were hundreds of millions old.  The country we know as Australia maybe really fresh but its land is far from it.

The next morning we packed and left the resort early, Ben had some tummy problems and we rushed as fast as we could towards home in Adelaide.  Rushing is only a figure of speech as the highway here is

They are having fun.

limited to 110kmh and it is for the most part a one lane highway!  What also surprised me is that the highway is not dotted with rest/service areas as we know them in Europe or the US.  We found some gas stations every 60km or so and the occasional hotel -hotels in Australia are usually the pubs, not necessary a hotel as I understand it. Funny is that this was the stretch of highway in the more densely populated part of SA between Port Augusta and Adelaide.  What will we encounter next week when we drive back the same highway past Port Augusta towards Cooper Pedy and Uluru?  Well, we will take lots of water with us and probably some extra diesel just to be safe.

One of the things that has surprised me here in Australia is the lack of education about conserving water and how cheap water is.  This is after all the driest continent and country in the world and SA is the driest state in this country, nevertheless people use too much water of which more than 60% is used to water gardens and plants that have no place in this country to begin with.  The cost of water is about 1/4 of the cost we have in Germany!  No wonder people let the water running when brushing their teeth or shaving!  There is something to be said about how conscious we are in Germany about this matter despite abundant water, we have learned to conserve and leave for the most part more efficient -high cost and taxation do work after all.

In the past few days we have been going places around Adelaide, will post fresh pictures and a new post soon.

So long….

What an angel!

Dramatic and spectacular!

A small pond along the hike.

Ben hiking!

The way up to Wangara Lookout

Can you spot Beth?

Can't get enough looking at them two!

Is he going to become a pilot?

Lake Torrens, a dry lake!

An HDR image!

Our first experience in the Outback – Part 1

Before I go on to describe our excursion into the Flinders Ranges, which in effect is in the Outback I want to give you an idea of how big and diversified Australia is.  The basics that you might have heard before is that Australia is the only continent that is a country and the only country that is a continent, it is I believe the largest island.  It is about as big as the continental USA and it has about 22 million inhabitants. More than 80% of the population are within a few miles from the sea and besides the cities of AdelaideBrisbaneCanberra,CairnsDarwinHobartMelbournePerth and Sydney there is not much else.  Imagine that, a whole continent with less than 10 major urban centers.  We were driving in, relatively speaking, the more densely populated parts of the  country and there were times when we did not see a car for 30-40min, driving at a 100kmh.

Watch out for those kangaroos!

Main Street, Gladstone, SA

Some of the older towns we passed through were founded in the late 1800s, my grandfather was born in 1897!  Sydney, the oldest of the cities established by white men, was founded in 1788, that is 12 years after the birth of another young nation across the Atlantic (or across the Pacific if you sit where I am now).  Melbourne the second biggest city here was declared a city by Queen Victoria only in 1847 the same year that Siemens was founded in Germany and the same year that Alexander Graham Bell was born.  In England the first Industrial Revolution was already over.  This country is so new and vast it is difficult to describe.  I thought I was prepared, I have driven for hours in parts of rural Russia (Russia is the biggest country) and I have driven from coast to coast in the USA and I am still surprised at how vast and sparsely

Main Street, Wirrabara, SA

populated this land is.

We wanted to get up and leave Adelaide early but it was almost 10am before we left Adelaide on the A1 in the direction of Port Augusta and about 200km north of Adelaide we got off the highway and headed for the hills on a parallel road, the Main North Rd,  that took us through GladstoneLaura, Stone Hut, Wirrabara, Wongyara, Murray Town, MelroseWilmingtonQuornHawker onto our final destination the Wilpena Pound.  We stopped at some of these towns, they do have that certain feeling of being frontier towns.  They do offer many outdoor activities as they are located along the Flinders Ranges

Melrose, SA

and also Mount Remarkable National Park.  Quorn and Hawker are also significant as they were along

War Memorial

the original Ghan railroad line that went through Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.  Actually in Quorn one can still ride the Pichi Richi railroad, which at least partly runs on the old Ghan railroad line.  February is still the summer here in Australia (it is the low season for tourism) so I cannot be certain but these towns seemed to be forgotten, way past their prime and somehow living in their past, trying to hang on to a former glory that never really came to be.  Quorn though was the most interesting of them all and apart of some modern signs it could be a real frontier town, it really seemed like we were in a movie set.

The railroad station in Quorn, SA

One of the things that I noticed in all the towns is that they all have memorials to theirs soldiers of WWI, WWII, Korea, etc. (picture on the right is from the memorial in Wirrabara). It is incredible that these people from these remote villages left their tranquil towns to fight and ultimately sacrifice their lives thousands of km away from their homes.  We had a significant force of Australians in Greece during WWII.  Their most painful memory of course is Gallipoli.

This is the first part, I am almost finished with the second part and I will have it online by tomorrow.

So long….

Wide open road into nothingness, welcome to the Outback!

Kangaroos welcoming us to the hotel.

A quick update

I have finally managed to get an internet connection. I had to, Lost was on a couple days ago and there is no way I am going to miss an episode, not now… ….not in the final season. Well, we had a thunderstorm yesterday and we rushed back to the hotel as flash floods are very common and we do not have the right wheels to be able to deal with it.  We should’ve gone 4WD, there is no other way to explore this land.  Today we hiked 8km to the Wangara Lookout, which oversees Wilpena Pound, the last 600 meters were a killer as we had a steep ascend on rocks that magnified the heat.  This land is ancient, the formations here are very very old and it looks unlike anything we have seen.  It is at least as impressive as Monument Valley.  We have met quite a few Germans, there are more of them than Aussies here.  We are staying here another night and we will be back in Adelaide tomorrow evening.

Oh yes, Ben of course was with us. See the pics for proof…

…and yes Lost is better than ever!

On Wangara Lookout, a very happy family!

Wilpena Pound from the Wangara Lookout

Ben and Beth before our flight over the Pound

The view North from Stokes Lookout

Wilpena Pound from the air

Oh yes, that is the plane. A Cessna 182.

Our hotel from the air

The landing strip!

Ben is our hero! He was smiling all the way...

Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges, SA

After a long drive through wondeful country roads we have made it to Wilpena Pound, the hotel here is great, Kangaroos and Emu all over the place. It is hot, we had more than 40C all day yesterday. Flew over the Pound, amazing! We will hike around for the next couple days and then back to Adelaide. This is an amazing country, I love it already.
Ben, well there are no words to describe the little man. He has not stopped smiling, maybe he is laughing at us…. who knows!

Willl post properly once I get internet connection again. There is no recepetion here, we are in the woods.

So long…

Adelaide, SA – Part 2

Well, here we are more or less where I last left off.  We have explored the surroundings a little bit and met many of Beth’s friends from the old times.  We visited the Museum of South Australia in Adelaide, a very interesting museum about Aboriginal history and culture and also the civilizations of the Pacific.  We walked in the down town area in the scorching sun, the sun is really different here, it burns right through the skin.  We all got our tans, even Ben who finds it way too warm.  We went to the Cancer Council to

Ben in the South Australian Museum

get some advise on how to prepare the little one out in the Outback.  So, among other things, we bought him sunglasses.  He looks so cool it was incredible, he flashed us a smile…. ….priceless.  He needs to get used to them though as he constantly takes them off.  We also went to the outdoor shop and bought long sleeve sun proof shirts and received a little advise on venturing out there.  There will be stretches on our way to Uluru of over 200km with nothing but a straight line through red dust in the scorching sun, I have no worries but better safe than sorry.  We have bought more than 50L of water already, hopefully we will not

Downtown Adelaide

need it.  Late in the evening we also went up the hills top see the city lights.  On Saturday we went to Henley Beach, the beach is 10 minutes away from the city center!

We also got our rental today, maybe it is because they saw the booking was from Germany, they gave us a VW Jetta, Auto, Leather and the works.  It is also a diesel so we will be saving on gas money.  Diesel here is 50% more expensive than normal unleaded though.  Tomorrow, we are going to go down town again to see the Botanical Garden,  Migration Museum and also the Himeji Gardens.  In the afternoon we will meet some friends for dinner and then we will get ready for the trip on Wednesday.  We will visit Flinders Ranges, according to SA Tourism Organization FR is

Beth and her Godfather, Adelaide city lights in the background

“…among Australia’s best natural and cultural landscapes, offering a rich environment for you to experience on your Outback holiday. The Flinders Ranges provide an emotionally uplifting and tranquil travel destination.”.  We will stay in the only hotel in the National Park, the Wilpena Pound Resort, planning to so some hiking and get to some look out spots to take in the amazing scenery, we may also do a short plane tour over the Wilpena Pound to take some pictures.  We will take the scenic route that will take us through the Southern Flinders Ranges and the towns of Gladstone, Melrose, Quorn, Hawker into Wilpena.  It is going to take about 6-8 hours

Enjoying Henley Beach

depending on how many breaks we will take but we will try to take us much in as possible and will write about it once we are back this coming weekend.

So long…

Ben & Fofo

Helen, Wayne and his son Ryan

They always look so good together!

Ben and Alekos

Adelaide, SA

The driest city in the driest continent, that is what the say about Adelaide.  The city was named after a German Queen, who married William IV and became the Queen of the UK and Ireland.  As we approached the city we could see a brown landscape, I expected more green.  The city sprawls for miles in the horizon, there are some taller buildings in the center but the skyline is nothing spectacular.  As we approach from the north we can see the famous Adelaide Hills to our right (eastward).  On the other side somewhere in the distance is the Kangaroo Island, the island without kangaroos.

Our arrival was uneventful, the red eye flight was short and Ben only slept 6 hours during the night, he did not complain.  It took us less than 15 minutes to get through immigration and pick up, again I thought of my last time when I arrived in Chicago.  It took me more than an hour, why?

Crocodile Dundee wannabe in Adelaide

Well, we have been in Adelaide for a few days now and we are catching up with relatives and friends.  We feel a little bit like being in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  On the first night though, I met a miner from Coober Pedy.  Theio (uncle to the non-Greeks, a term we use to show respect to elder people and of course for actual uncles) Aleko has been a miner over there for over 30 years!  Coober Pedy is one of the hottest places on earth and the city is known as The Opal Capital of the world.  We will stop in this town on our way to the Northern Territory along the Stuart Highway sometime later this month. Interesting about this town aside from what most travel books talk about is that there is a big Greek community that has been active there for many decades, along with Italians, Yugoslavs.  Life there is harsh, lonely and quite; time is on a different schedule.  Anyway, the pace is slow going right now and we are organizing our time, I have arranged for a rental and we should be going to Flinders Ranges National Park and the frontier town Quorn.  Besides some family matters that we have to attend we will also be doing excursions around Adelaide and hopefully see some festivals as it is that time of the year here in Adelaide.  Towards the end of the month we will be heading out to see Uluru and the real Outback.

They are in the pool again!

The house

Where we are staying

We are staying with Beth’s godparents in Vale Park which is about 10 minutes drive from down town Adelaide.  The suburbs here are a bit different compared to the typical US suburbs.  The houses are mostly ranch style house, there is no basement.

The neighbourhood

The lots seem to be much smaller and most of them are fenced in, in some cases with plain, ugly, metal sheets, I find that very weird and somehow depressing.  The houses are simple in their construction like in the US and unlike Germany nobody seems to even think about energy waste and eco friendly housing.  People are much more friendly than in Germany though and when you walk around here strangers tend to greet each other.  The cars are older and the contrast is especially stark cince our last station was Singapore where most cars were not older then 2 or 3 years, streets are very wide and the traffic at least here in Adelaide seems to be ok.

The Greeks that I have met here til now are very similar to Greek-Americans, they keep the idea of Hellenism alive.  The people here are more Greek than their brethren that live in Greece.  Through love and a lot of hard work they keep the Greek and especially their Pontianheritage alive.  To those of you who do not know Pontians are a distinct Greek ethnic group that lived in what is now day northern Turkey in the Black Sea area.  This is where my father’s family came from.  This love which is common to so many Greeks even in 2nd or 3rd generation in far away places is very strong, it is the fact that they miss their homeland so much that this flame alive even after 40 years of living in far away places like Australia.  Adelaide has two Greek radio stations, 14 Greek Orthodox churches and according to some estimates about 50,000 to 60,000 Greeks, that is very small compared to Melbourne where the number is well above 100,000.

So long….

I did not have the time to work on some of the videos that we took since we left home, you can watch them here.

Singapore – The rest

The stay over in Singapore was far too short or far too long we cannot decide.  We did not see everything we wanted to see, with a baby it is hard to keep a tight schedule and the heat did not help much.  On the other side travelling with Ben is a blast he does not complain, not once has he complained during the past few days and we put him through many ordeals.  Quite the opposite through his sweet toothless smile we were approached by many people.  In Germany when you walk around with a baby in a stroller you’re a nuisance, people tend to look at you in a different, not necessarily a positive way.  Here, we were stopped by mostly Asians, Westerners could not care less, and they wanted to talk to him and play with him.  They wanted to enquire about his age and if he can walk and stuff,

Oh, so tired!

it was an awesome experience and one that has really showed us how blessed we are.  Even now, it is late at night at the airport and we had to check out this morning he is still smiling at people.  It makes you think and he forces you to believe, to try better and to just smile.  He has definitely enriched our trip.  The picture on the right is shows how tired we all were by the end of each day.

A white tiger


There is not enough I can say about Ben, as a proud father I guess that is normal but I got to move on.  The second day we

A white rhino

went to the Singapore Zoo, the zoo is awesome, the best I have seen so far.  I guess the location helps as many of the animals feel right at home, in Wuppertal an elephant or a tiger does look a bit out of place as it is far from its natural environment.  There were some special things to see but the white tigers, the cheetahs and the white rhinoceros were the ones that impressed me the best.  The orangutan’s colony is well known and there are different shows that are quite entertaining, Ben did not seem to care much about the animals.

We chose to not rush to any other sites for the day and instead we went back to the hotel and went down to the pool.  Ben loves the water and his mother does too.  The day was hot and the pool helped us to cool down.  The Shangri La hotel was not as good as I expected it to be.  It had a nice pool area but the room was a little old, it was spacious but it looked like it needed some renovations.  The staff

Mother and son

were excellent though, they were very friendly and some people knew Ben by his name.  Lying by the pool I also started reading “One for the road” by Tony Horowitz a Travelogue about his trip a hitchhiker around Australia.  Funny stuff and a way to prepare at least a bit for our trip to Uluru.

On Sunday we decided to sleep in and use the pool again before we headed out to see the Singapore National Museum and meet up with my colleague Pamela.  Relaxing next to water is for some reason a great relaxing experience, the best.  We left to go to the National Museum at around 14:00, when we got there though there was a long queue to go and see the different exhibits so we decided to leave the place and walk down to the Esplanade to see the Merlion and also get a view of the business district and possibly the Quay.  On the way down we passed Fort Canning Park, best known for being the Allied HQ, headed by Lieutenant-General Arthur E. Pecival in that tragic loss to the Japanese in 1942.

We then walked and -did I mentioned it was hot!- saw two very peculiar things.  One was the arrest of what seemed to be a migrant worker, we did not know why but it seems a strange experience in a place like Singapore.  The other thing we saw and we actually looked on as he went through the routine was a bus driver dusting the outside of his bus.  We have never seen something like that but it also goes

Ben, me and the CBD

to show you how clean the place is.  The first time we used the stroller was in Singapore and we walked for many miles in the city and the different parks, the wheels do not even have dust on the them, they look like they have never been used, it is that clean!  We moved on and walked around the Esplanade and the

Raffles Place - Looking up!

Theaters on the Bay, we saw the Merlion and the CBD.  The sun was scorching hot and we were running a little late so

The Singapore River

we rushed to the Raffles Hotel where we met with Pam.  We took the MRT (their version of the Underground), which again was impeccably clean, how is that possible with the thousands of people that use the thing is beyond me to the Raffles Place, where the three tallest buildings of Singapore are located.  We were looking to go to the Singapore River to take a boat ride.  It is a touristy thing to do I guess but it also gives you a spectacular view of the city.  As he did not have lunch we got hungry early and we headed out of the city towards the East to the East Lagoon Seafood Plaza, chili crab and prawns were in order and they were tasty!  I find food in Asia to always taste better than what we have back home and we were not disappointed.  We then walked

Pam with Beth and Ben

along the beach looking out towards all the big ships anchored waiting their turn I guess.  On Sunday there was also some type of Kite gathering and there were quite a few people flying their kites along the beach as well.  Pam took good care of us and we are ever thankful for her hospitality.  We will hopefully see each other again soon.

Our last day in Singapore, we had to check out early and our flight was at midnight was spend at the pool in the morning and then at shopping malls where we had japanese lunch, oishi soba noodles and also kept cool for the main part of the day.  It is here also that we saw one too many Montblanc and Zara stores.  Doesn’t the value of exclusive brands diminish when they have shops every few hundred meters?  It is also here that we realized that Singapore has lost most of its past in these malls and high end hotels.  We went up to the 34th floor (….or was it 36th, hmmm) of the Mandarin Gallery/Meritus Mandarin Hotel where we had a spectacular view of the city.  The only thing that one could see is this mega city very few patches of green and even less of its past, which had been cleared by bulldozers to make way for the neon lights, the malls, the ever lasting hunger of people to spend money buying stuff they do not really need.  Little has been left of the old colonial Singapore, there are some patches where one can glimpse the old glory of this trading post or let alone the remnants of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire that was long before any white man set foot here.  The apetite for development is insatiable, there are more shopping centers and malls being build not only along Orchard Rd but all around the city and more housing units as the population is projected to grow from 5 million to 6 million within the next 20 years or so.  So while we liked many things in Singapore, I loved above all the multicultural aspect and the boring weather reports, there are a few things that are not as exciting as we had maybe hoped for.

So finally after a few days in Singapore we were ready for the flight to Adelaide, the airport -another shopping mall in disguise- is excellent.  The flight though was leaving at midnight and the day had been long, as soon the seat belt sign went off, we put Ben in his cot and we all fell asleep…

So long….

Singapore

We do not seem to suffer from jet-lag, well not much anyway!  So on our first day we naturally woke up a little later, had a long breakfast and decided to take it easy by heading to the Botanical Garden.

The National Orchid Garden

Of course we did not think that we will be exposed to  the sun for the better part of the morning with the temperature hitting 32C in the shade.  Beth, the eternal organizer had brought sun cream and lots of water for Ben and us but the heat was unbelievable.  The garden was very nice but the highlight is the Orchid Garden which is a 3-acre garden

within a garden and the only part for which we had to pay an admission.  It was wonderful we have never seen so many pretty flowers in one place.  I do not care much for flowers but it was amazing to see all the varieties, the many shapes and even more colors.  The walk through the park though took its toll on us, we had visibly difficulties dealing with this extreme weather, we were not used to it.  Ben was an angel, he did have his difficulties but he never complaint, not one bid.  We tried to give him more water and repeatedly whitened him with heavy sun cream but he was beat.  On thing that we noticed repeatedly is how Ben interacts with this strange environment, he smiles and engages people at will.  It is also true that people all

over Asia are much more child friendly than most places in Europe.  So many women but even some men would stop and interact with him, they smiled and played with him.  We went with the flow and let Ben do his thing and work the crowd, this was even more so later in the evening on Orchard rd.  We quickly decided though that staying out exposed to this sun was going to get the better of us so we got on a taxi, after feeding Ben, and went to Maxwell Food Court in Chinatown.  Maxwell’s is an open FC where mostly locals enjoy food so the taxi driver was a bit taken back when I asked him to take us there, his question was “You know Maxwell FC?”, I guess we did not look like locals.  The place is colorful, so many smells and so many different foods.  Some did not look like as appetizing but chinese kitchen is not only kung-po chicken or sweet and

Maxwell’s FC

sour pork.  There is such a variety and as the chinese themselves say they eat everything but the table!  We decided for some chicken and rice, supposedly a specialty of the Hain province and some greens that I have not seen before, it was all very tasty.  Meanwhile Ben was sleeping in his stroller and people were stopping by to look at him and then looked at us approvingly.  It was a bit embarrassing but we also felt proud.  Nearby there was a chinese Temple and a market that we took a stroll through.  I love local markets as the products they offer are profoundly different than what you get at home and it is the best way to see to familiarize with the locals.  It is funny because back home we never go to street markets but whenever I am anywhere in Asia I love walking through them, they

Chinese lanterns

become more interesting when they are far away from any urban area.

By now we had been out of the hotel for the better part of so we decided  to find our way back to the hotel and relax at the pool, Ben seemed to agree with us.  We do not understand why but it has been difficult to get a taxi but thanks to a very kind young man from Rhode Island, who called a cab for us, we were able to get into a air conditioned taxi that took us back to our hotel.  It was only when we returned back to the hotel that we realized that we were all red from the sun, Ben who used sun screen fared better but he got a nice little tan.

The hotel pool

Back in the hotel we decided to find some shade out by the pool and enjoy the rest of the day. The room is spacious and cool but we are not here to stay in the room, so we went down and promptly fell asleep.  There is nothing that compares to sleeping outside with the sound of water and Ben as you can see in

Father and son asleep at the pool

the picture enjoyed it too.

Later we again went out to Orchard road, we spend most of our evenings there and I will describe the experience in a later post.

It has been barely 24 hours since we left home but it could not be farther away and we were enjoying ourselves immensely.  More to follow, so long…

First day in Singapore

So, we are finally here it has taken us more than 18 hours of flying and layovers, this compares favorably with the first Europeans who showed up here a few hundred years ago so there are no complaints.

Singapore is a city state at the tip of the Malay peninsula, it is about 85 miles north of the equator.  Its population is about 5 million some estimates say that about 50% of that are foreign born.  Singapore is a a parliamentary republic but according to some NGOs it is a repressive place politically speaking although in terms of the economy it is one of the most liberal globally.  Somewhere in this mix lies the secret of its success, according to one of the statistics I read lately about 1 out of every 13 citizens is a millionaire, Singapore has the 5th highest GDP in the world and according to my limited experience one of the highest concentration of exotic and luxury cars in the world!  What makes Singapore so unique besides its economic strength is its unique way of dealing with the diversity of its people, about 50% are of chinese origin, with Malays, Indians, Europeans, etc. making up the rest.  All live and work in harmony!

Now back to our trip.  Immigration and luggage pick up was a breeze, it is about time that the US learns something from others.  Nowhere besides Russia and US does it take so long to clear immigration, it is keeping me away.  The drive to the city from the airport is surreal in many ways.  I have done it many times before but it is always astonishing how pretty, how perfect everything looks.  It is clean, the cleanest place I have seen, no wonder as even spitting carries a hefty fine.  I guess there is a lesson there somewhere for most of our democratic and free nations of Europe where abusing, damaging or destroying city or foreign property is excused as a difficult childhood, freedom of expression or some other absurd excuse.  It is hard not to compare the situation especially when the differences are so stark.

The Shangri-La in Singapore

As you may have surmised I like Singapore, I have been a fan of the city since my first visit 13 years ago.  We arrived at the hotel and as some hotels do our check in was done in our room.

The service was impeccable, Shangri-La is known for being an excellent hotel and they did not disappoint.  It was already late in the afternoon so we quickly freshened up and as internally it was a still lunch time for us we hopped on the hotel shuttle bus that took us to one of the malls on Orchard rd.  It was a quick dinner at a chinese restaurant where we had the choice of dumplings or dumplings but they were very tasty nonetheless.

We were too wired to get back to the hotel immediately so we walked around Orchard rd. with all its glitz and glamour.  Orchard rd. is the major shopping street in Singapore and a major tourist attraction.  It seems to have one of the highest concentrations of shopping malls in the world, over 20 if I counted correctly, I wonder why there is a need for a Zara store across a Zara store but I guess there is always a reason.  It was enough for us to look at the malls from the outside to know that they were all the same from the inside.  They are surely full with more exclusive stores than your average mall in Germany, the US or the UK but on the boring side nevertheless.

The Main Entrance of the Shangri La in Singapore

Ben and Beth on Orchard Rd in front of the Isetan shopping mall

The time was 22:00 and the street was bustling with pedestrians, the temperature had now fallen to a cool 28 degrees.  It seemed that the street side cafes and bars were full of people enjoying the warm night, it was very difficult for us to imagine that not quite 24 hours ago we were in the cold and miserable winter that has gripped most of Europe this winter.  After walking for a few blocks we got ourselves a taxi and went back to the hotel where we gave Ben his milk and fell asleep …..

So long…..


Preparing for the trip

We have been preparing for this trip for a long time.  Last summer we had to start buying clothes for Ben so that he would have some clothes in the hot and humid weather in Singapore and Oz.  We had to organize many small and big things with the house, the cars the bills.  You do not think of all the little bits and pieces that you have to take care before the trip, these bits and pieces rise exponentially with a little infant in the group.  All these things slowly fell into place by the time we had to leave and the ones we forgot I guess are not as important as we might have thought.  So the last few days before the trip were not as hectic.  We were long prepared, mostly thanks to Beth, who is very well organized and works well with task and to-do lists.  I would have forgotten half of the stuff….

So as last few days were filled with goodbyes and farewells from friends and relatives.  We saw my grandma the day before we left and she enjoyed playing with Ben, who always seems to be very happy to see her.  On the 27th, the day we left, they had a snow storm warning for most of Germany, we were a little worried so we left a little earlier and met with friends at the airport.  We got lucky and they changed our flight to an earlier one and we could leave Düsseldorf earlier than scheduled.  In Frankfurt we had to walk, what felt like a dozen kilometers and go through security checks again as we the two terminals were not connected, what’s up with that?

Beth and Ilias checking in

I fly a few dozen times a year and I avoid the airport in Frankfurt and this was certainly a reminder of how bad this airport really is.  Anyway the lounge was very good and quiet, besides some speeches that little Ben had to give.  It is this new thing of his when he mumbles loudly gesticulating like a skilled politician.

Our flight out of Frankfurt was boarded on  time but by the time we were ready for take off it was snowing heavily and we needed to de-ice the plane which took more than an hour of waiting in the plane all with fastened seat belts.  Thank goodness the quality of the air is always bad in the plane so it helped us doze off until we took off around midnight.  The flight was a little bumpy and felt sorry for Beth who seemingly has bad luck with long haul flights, the bumpy part started right after dinner and it made her feel really sick.  I, like most people hate it as well, but it does not bother me much.  I was able to watch the “Surrogates” and “Public Enemies” while also catching some sleep.  Ben got the royal treatment, as they hung a baby cot on the wall so that he could sleep in peace and we could have our hands free and best of all this service was free of charge.

Ben and Despoina during our check in for our flights to Singapore

Ben in his special airplane baby cot

We finally arrived with a slight delay in Singapore where the temperature was at 32C with a  comfortable 90% humidity, when we left it was -8c and snowing heavily.  We have had weather like that for the better of the month so it was very nice to see the sun and very pleasant to feel the heat.  The sun, the palm trees, the open water and Ben’s excitement to finally be able to get out of the confined spaces of the plane brought smiles on our tired faces.

I will try to update this blog as often as possible, I will have internet access for the next few days here in Singapore but I am not sure about later on.

So long….