Monday, June 11, 2012

From Singapore to London and on to Istanbul! Hot to cold and back to the heat!

This has been quite a week. We did have our run in Singapore and in fact managed an 8km course round the streets and past the Children's Olympic Park. It was hot and we were very glad to finish! One thing we noticed in Singapore was the incredible amount of roadworks absolutely everywhere somewhat spoiling the landscape. I did forget to mention that when on our bus tour we saw the Raffles City Tower which is 73 floors high and this is the venue for an annual marathon where competitors run all the way to the top. Hmmm, that doesn't sound like much fun!
On Saturday 2 June we visted the Jurong Bird Park which was really pleasant and totally amazing - loved the owls.

After a full day there we took a bus to the Night Safari which operates next to the Singapore Zoo but only opens at night. Inside we had an open train ride all round the complex to give us a close look at the lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, zebras, wolves, rhinos etc and later we walked round to have another look from a different angle. We even managed to watch a hungry tiger at feeding time with only a thin sheet of glass between us.
On our last day we visited a Mosque where a very enthusiastic guide was determined to convert us although he really was interesting to talk to. He explained that he only had one wife although it was quite acceptable for Muslims to have up to three wives providing they were all treated exactly the same way and loved equally. He also explained that the reason the men have separate areas to the women for prayer is so that the men are not distracted from their prayers by the sight of the women bowed in prayer - all very fascinating stuff:)
Mosques have no seats as muslims all kneel on the ground to pray. They are called to prayer several times a day and must leave what they are doing to go to the Mosque to pray.
Of course a visit to Singapore would not be complete without a visit to the famous Raffles Hotel where we ordered a very expensive but very refreshing Singapore Sling!

Singapore Sling at Raffles
We had an upgrade to Premium Economy on the Singapore to London leg and really loved the extra leg room and wider seats.  We felt far less tired upon arrival.  We stayed at Mr B's cousin's house in Epsom; they have a spare bedroom in the attic on the second floor which tests out the legs! The weather in London was pretty miserable after the heat of Singapore - only managed to reach 13 and it was wet and windy. We could almost have been at home on a Canberra late autumn day!
We hired a new Fiat Cinquecento, just to see what it was like - we used to have one 40 odd years ago - seemed very small but in fact it's quite roomy inside for two plus luggage, and quite a smooth grown up car to drive. It had 'stop start' which turns off the engine whenever you are at traffic lights - a handy feature once you get used to the idea but a bit embarrassing when you stall at the lights!
In our few days in London we went up to town one day to revisit a few old haunts, such as Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Notting Hill where we worked in the 70's. This has changed somewhat and we couldn't find the wine bar which we used to frequent. The Windsor Castle Pub however is still going strong and is as quaint as ever. We also picked up some cheap seats for the theatre and we chose to see Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street.  The plot was threadbare but the singing was great and there was much slitting of throats with very realistic blood spurts (at least they looked good from the Gods)! We haven't been tempted to eat meat pies since and it's a good thing Mr B no longer requires the services of a barber!
We caught up with a few friends in London, which was loads of fun, including meeting up with a friend from the days we worked in London in the early 70s - 38 years since we last met up, and it was lovely to engage in a bit of 'do you remember ....?'  .

Then - 1974 - that's Mr B with the long black hair and me with the short reddish hair in the denim! Jean in the bottom photo with Mr B. We went on a trip to France one weekend as you do!

Now - 38 years later! Strewth and Jean

Jean, Mr B, Strewth
We also managed a couple of runs while in the UK, both of them about 7.5km. We found a couple of lovely routes, one was decidedly undulating heading to Epsom Downs and round the race course and golf course. Parts of the run was on a lovely trail overhung by trees and everywhere was ever so green. On our second run we were caught in light showers and our shoes were decidedly muddy from the sloshiness underfoot but it was so good to run.

We are now in Istanbul. The temperature is several degrees warmer than London and we are finding it a busy, exciting and fascinating city. Our arrival didn't get off to a good start as we were charged $60 each for a visa at the airport which seems particularly aimed at Australians as it is only $20 for other countries and indeed NZ passport holders don't require a visa at all. If only our previous passports hadn't been stolen last year! When we queried the cost we were told "We don't like Australians" which went down like a lead balloon when a tad tired and just off a four hour flight at midnight. However, since then the locals have been mainly helpful and pleasant.

We are staying in the Sultan Hotel here, the same name as our hotel in Singapore but no connection, just coincidence. It is only six months old but it is a very small room, in fact the entire hotel only consists of ten rooms, all of which are up steep windy stairs. It was a bit daunting hauling the suitcases up these stairs but fortunately the poor young man at reception had waited up for us and lugged my bag up for me. It was after 1.30am before we arrived at the hotel as the cab driver managed to become lost, there being several hotels by the name of Sultan!

Friday was our first full day here and after the hotel breakfast, which gives choices of bread, cheese slices, various types of cold meat, apricot nectar, perculated coffee or tea, some sort of sugary cereal which we avoid, nuts, hard boiled eggs and yoghurt, we explored the area starting with the Grand Bazaar. Here a very friendly local insisted on taking us to his "shop" of rugs to meet his family and discuss all things Australian. We were introduced to his brother who made me sit down to try Turkish tea and then his daughter was brought in to meet us and we were shown various photos of family members taken with well known celebrities. Of course he has a shop in Sydney too. We did manage to escape eventually but Mr B admonished me for being too friendly and in danger of being sucked in!! They did however supply us with a map of the bazaar which proved to be quite helpful and we will endeavour to return to the bazaar before we leave.

Next stop was the Spice Market, another large bustling marketplace living up to its name of lots of spices and nuts. We bought a mixture of fresh Turkish Delight and some plump dried apricots to keep us going! It was a very hot sticky day but we did a big explore stopping for our first Turkish lunch at a roadside bar. We checked out the mosques, shops, local cobbled streets and interesting little alleyways and sussed out everything we want to see in the next few days here. In the evening we ate kebabs at a restaurant seated next to Aussies from Newcastle who were just leaving but filled us in on a few more things to add to our list of things to do. On our other side we met Pakistanis who had been living in Texas since 1982. There are a large number of tourists here. In fact it is a hive of activity and very busy and alive from late morning to late evening. We noticed that the evenings cool down after the sun goes down which is decidedly pleasant after the stickiness of the day.

This man heaving a trolley of goods up the hill is a typical sight

Street seller selling bagels

Exploring the streets - woman in full burka

Local streets
 To be continued on next blog entry!

1 comment:

  1. Well, Dave's changed a bit! You look strange with red hair - a short haired Aki? ;) You look better blonde!

    3 wives! How could a bloke put up with that?

    Istanbul looks fascinating. Streets a tad crowded for running though ;)