Tuesday, 31 May 2011

A farewell to the nomads and the return to exercise - almost...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. The Bull's alarm clock went off at 6:20 AM this morning, but the Bull (nor the Striker) managed to lug themselves out of bed. We instead went on the whole "well, we just did a road race, so it's better if we continue resting" premise, the result being another 90 minutes of sleep and my face already looking chubbier. But since I've just been accepted for the F1 Nature Trail Run in late June (1/2 marathon in the rain forest), I'm thinking I can't skip too many more workouts. So tomorrow, we're back in action!
We said farewell to Money and Dan this evening, as the perpetual nomads are now returning to their homeland for 24 hours before a week in France for a wedding and then 2 weeks back in the Mother Country. We chose the local Thai joint (where they speak ZERO English) for din din, and I killed some beef in oyster sauce (Muffin, of course, went for the Tom Yam - So GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD...peppy cheekies). And I am happy to report that we've returned to our AFD ways...but that Bailey's in the fridge sure looks tempting. Hitman - I've tried to train my liver properly in anticipation of your visit, but the reality is that I'm but a fraction of my former self (literally and figuratively). However, I will put up the good fight.
Other than that, not a whole lot else to report. It's 9:18 PM and I've already eaten, so I feel somewhat lost. Normally I would just be getting back from the gym, showering, and starting dinner, so I must find some way to fill the hours. Oh well, I'm sure there's a travel website or 2 which can keep me occupied. :-)
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Monday, 30 May 2011

A blog I've been waiting for more than a year - back across the finish line...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Team Taylor is just back from Wine Connection, where we had a great evening with Money to the Penny and Big D (just back from Phuket). I am fat and happy, with plenty of venison down the gullet (so guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud...peppy cheekies).
Tonight is an important blog for me, as it's one that I've been wanting to type for more than a year (in in truth just shy of 2). I write you all tonight happy to confirm that, after more than 2 years away from running, the Bull got back into the half marathon finisher's column on Saturday night (and YES, Sarah - I know that we're YET AGAIN in matching outfits). I posted 2:05:59 (Dinger - you can check the website - that's the official time), which is just north of my goal but still all good given the heat (and Dad, before you ask it - yes, I left it all out there. I might have been able to shave 30 seconds - 2 minutes off that, but I would still have been north of 2 hours). I finished in the top 8% overall and in the top 9% in my age division (68th out of 729), and on the whole I am really pleased with how it all went.
It should be noted that Muffin Puffin did some great work in the 10K as well, passing 18% of the field in the last 5K (seriously - she passed 1218 PEOPLE!!!!). She ran with Sarah, and they turned in a 1:15:40, which was AWESOME considering how narrow the course was and the fact that there were over 8K people in the 10K.
However, despite the thrill of finishing, it should be noted that this race was arguably THE SINGLE MOST DISAPPOINTING RUNNING EXPERIENCE OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. So just to paint the scene, let me give you the details as a comparison to, say, oh, I don't know....the VIRGINIA BEACH HALF MARATHON (Benny and Kay - you're gonna love this).
VB Race Start: You have a hotel at the beach, so you walk the half mile to the starting line.
SG Race Start: You walk 15 minutes (at LEAST) to the MRT in 90 degree heat, ride for 35 minutes to the Expo, and then catch a 35 minute bus to the race start AT THE ASS END OF THE UNIVERSE. It might be shorter, but THERE IS NO BUS LANE AND THE BUS HAS TO YIELD OT ALL CARS, so you are pinned in until some driver let's you through.
VB Commentator: Host of the "World Marathons Big 5" - very knowledgeable in the sport, with some great commentary
SG Commentator: Some Singapore dude who was trying simply to read off names of the finishers, but all he could say was, "Wow, you are all so fast! I try to read these names, but you move so fast, lah! I need to be a news man, is it? I can't see these names! But I love you all! You all do so good, lah!" (Rinse repeat this for 30 minutes)
VB clothing: Everyone dressed in crazy clothing and university gear
SG clothing: EVERYONE is wearing the race t-shirt. Seriously - I was the ONLY PERSON for miles around in anything else...and that anything else happened to be a NEON YELLOW SHIRT. Yep, let's play "Someone spot the Ang Mo banana that's 3 feet taller than the rest of the field."
VB course: About a million spectators across 13 miles, complete with 10 bands, 2 full lanes of traffic
SG course: TINY ASS course that is about 8 feet wide (meaning you are running over the slower folks CONSTANTLY), PITCH BLACK FIRST MILE, followed by a 6 mile straight line of running down a dimly lit street with NO FANS and some race volunteers asleep. The highlight was when some dude's i-Phone went off and played some music. Other than that it was just AWFUL.
VB Hydration: Gel twice on the course, Powerade stations every 2 miles, and water every 2 miles
SG Hydration: No goo or gel, tiny ass tables that couldn't serve a family of 4 with water (POURED FROM 1 LITER BOTTLES), and then CARBONATED DRINKS AS THE ELECTROLYTE REPLENISHER
VB Corrals: Organized by finishing time with bibs marked and required for entry; pacers wearing big signs to mark the time
SG Corrals: NO ORGANIZATION WHATSOEVER. I had people in front of me who were walking at the THREE MINUTE MARK.
VB Pace group: Every 15 minutes, beginning with 1 hour and 30 minutes, clearly marked
VB Race finish: Butter playing on the ocean, free beer, and they put the medal around your neck
SG Race finish: you get a bottle of water, a banana, and some dude hands you your medal. You then go to sit down and cockroaches run toward you because you now smell like them
VB transport home: Walk 1/2 mile - shower awaits.
SG transport home: Sit in a FREEZING bus for 70 minutes, be dropped off a a metro THAT IS NO LONGER RUNNING, take the subway the only direction it's still going (which is BACK TO THE AIRPORT YOU JUST LEFT), get in a cab and pay the airport fee to depart, show up back at home angry and ready to fire bomb the course
I will complement the fact that there was water every mile and the results report, as it was an amazing analysis of the race data. However, this race was simply pathetic for a city this size, especially given that it's the 4th installment. Seriously, once they tried to stop me whilst running so that they could let cars through (they wanted a 1 minute break for traffic) - WHO LET'S THAT HAPPEN DURING A ROAD RACE?!?!?!? SERENITY NOW!!!!!!
My biggest complaint - Singapore is an AMAZING place. The city has SO MANY wonderful sites, interesting neighborhoods, and cool aspects. To spend 13 miles running in pitch black darkness at the tale end of the island is a disgrace, and I would tell ANYONE considering running a race here to skip this one. I have, obviously, signed up for others, but their courses are MUCH better. Come on, Hi-velocity - you can do better than this.
All the same, 1/2 marathon #17 is in the books, and it's a good feeling. Now it's back to pound the pavement tomorrow and get geared up for the next installment!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Friday, 27 May 2011

Almost as exciting as a day with Dingbat - Wrapping the Philippines...

And a good Saturday afternoon to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. It's the WEEKEND!!!!! We are officially in countdown mode, as Muffin Puffin's race is just 4 hours and 25 minutes away! I'm 2 hours past that, and then we've got Money and Dan back in the Sing later this evening. All in all, it's a big weekend!
But we'll come to all that later, as for now we need to get back to even and wrap up the Philippines. And so, without further ado, I present the adventure, the journey, the experience that was...the underground river.
Okay, so here's the deal. During all of Muffin's research on Palawan, the ONE THING that kept coming up time and time again was "the underground river." This place, located in Puerto Princessa National Park, is currently a "finalist for the 7 natural wonders of the world," and it is being marketed as though it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Given all the buzz about it (and the fact that Not So Slim Shady was DESPERATE for us to book with him), we were expecting to be BLOWN AWAY by this experience. But as fate would have it, things weren't quite that simple.
Pick-up on time? Check. Nice drive across the spine of the island? Check. Random bathroom spot where I can throw darts outside? Check. Chatty tour guide? CHECK. HOLY SHIT THIS WOMAN WOULD NOT SHUT UP FOR ABOUT 45 MINUTES. Let me give you a sample (it's not even a dialogue - just a soliloquy):
Chatty Cathy Tour Guide (CCTG): "So this is Palawan, but the island isn't called Palawan. It's called PalAwan. The native tribe here was called Palawan. So it is pronounced incorrectly? Do you have questions? Why are you shy? My name is Sherpa. That is S-H-E-R-P-A. Any questions? Why do you not have questions? Sure you have a question? No? Okay, maybe it's early in the morning. So our drive takes 2 hours to the river. That's 2 hours. Does everyone understand 2 hours? Then you go to the river and go on river. So we go on river. Any questions? I cannot believe how shy you are! Remember, my name is Sherpa. S-H-E-R-P-A. So if you have any questions, you ask me. Do you want to know about PalAwan? Remember, it's PalAwan and not Palawan. If you say Palawan you are talking about the native tribe, not the island. The island is called PalAwan. We have a 2 hour drive across the island. Then we will visit the underground river..."
Just picture that in your grill for 45 minutes...and then think about how hard it is not to SHOOT YOURSELF IN THE FACE WITH AN ELEPHANT GUN TO END THE PAIN. But moving on...
So en route, Chatty Cathy (that's a "Pappasism" for all the LoanSolutions crew) tells us that, when we arrive at the jetty, we'll have "a bit of a wait" before we go to the river. However, we can fill that time with a rapelling/spelunking trip for $7 USD. This sounds good to us, but when we arrive at the jetty, Chatty Cathy says, "Okay, it's lunch time! You eat now!" When Sarah points out that we were supposed to have excursions for the next 1.5 hours and then eat prior to going to the river, Sherpa looks as though we've just said, "I would now like you to saw off your own elbow and turn it into jewelry." She responds: "No - must eat now." When pressed about the rapelling, she confirms that "we'll be able to do that no the way home." She then gives us 2 hours of "free time," which would convenient if we were anywhere other than THE ASS END OF THE UNIVERSE IN A DOWNPOUR.
All the same, I consume about 15 grown squid (so guuuuuuuuuuuuud....peppy cheekies) and even buy some $4 boardshorts before Jenny and I start walking along the beach. As we walk, we realize that this is a "resort" area and that folks are spending multiple weeks here. Honestly, I shudder at the thought. But anyhoo, we're on the walk when Sherpa comes running at us like a rabid banshee.
"The boat! The boat is here! We must hurry! To the jetty! To the jetty!" Seriously - this couldn't have been more dramatic if it were Paul Revere riding through New England. And the strangest part? The boat was 15 minutes early. Why is this interesting, you ask? BECAUSE NOTHING IS EVER, EVER EARLY IN ASIA.
All the same, we hustle to the jetty, where we learn that a) the "boat" isn't our boat - it's another tour group, b) we are such a big group that we will require THREE boats, and c) none of those boats are anywhere in the bay. When we ask Sherpa why she is a 100% TOTAL moron, she just smiles. I told I had Dingbat's phone number and that they would be PERFECT for each other as long as they promised not to breed.
So finally, 35 minutes later, our "boat" arrives, and we make the journey to the Underground River. Only there's another hitch - this isn't actually the boat that we'll take to the river. It's just the boat that takes us to the entrance to the cave, where ANOTHER BOAT is required. So we land, take our 15 minutes to sign up, and then walk the 13 steps to the dock for the river, only to discover that it's A ONE HOUR WAIT ON THE MOSQUITO INFESTED DOCK whilst we wait for our boat to take us into the cave. Granted, I did take this opportunity to learn Suduku (or whoever the hell you spell it), which I discovered IS IMPOSSIBLE AND THAT I SUCK AT IT. Seriously - I'll stick to history - at least there the only numbers I have to deal with are dates. Seriously - it's a lot like Excel - without the X-factor working his magic and keeping me employed I'd still by trying to make some formula for UK payroll work.
So finally we get on our boat, and we begin our 45 minute tour in the cave. And by "45 minute tour," I mean 27 minutes that involve the following:
1. A fellow tourist holding a flashlight POWERED BY A CAR BATTERY trying to swing the light toward whatever the paddler tells us.
2. A paddler yelling "LEFT, RIGHT! MORE LEFT! MORE RIGHT!" at the poor tourist with the battery.
3. Lots of birds and bats flying over you constantly, all the while waiting for guano to COVER YOUR HEAD.
4. The smell of bat shit - WOW.
And so, 27 minutes later, we're now an hour past when we were supposed to be BACK AT THE HOTEL and have yet to get back to the jetty. Sherpa tells us that it's too late to rapell (SHOCKING), and Sarah doesn't let her off easily. It was painful to watch - but at least Sherpa never quite smiling.
We made up some time on the way home, driving like BATS OUT OF HELL on the side of a cliff before arriving back at the hotel and catching the evening shuttle for a second dinner at Kennebush. We then came back to the Microtel and passed out, somewhat disappointed with the experience but still glad that we'd crossed it off.
Honestly, the river really was neat, and I think that, with a little more effort, it could be very impressive. That being said, if I have to choose between THAT and the Great Barrier Reef, well...sorry PalAwan - you're S-O-L...
On Tuesday we had an early flight back to Manila, where we had 6 hours to burn before our flight back to Sing Sing. And so we did what anyone who wants to relive their childhood would do - GO TO THE SM MALL OF ASIA, BABY!!!!! Seriously, we were kids in a candy store at this place. We started with a nice lunch (spending the rest of our cash save what was required for the BLOODY DEPARTURE AND AIRPORT USAGE TAX - $25 USD A PERSON - SERENITY NOW!!!!!) before doing the one thing that EVERYONE must do whilst in Manila - BOWLING, BABY!!!!!!!
Seriously - we had a BLAST - we rocked 2 games at this place, scoring 10 pin on the screen and 9 pin on paper. It was absolutely HILARIOUS, and the place was pretty much the nicest bowling alley I've ever been to (I mean, if a place is willing to play the entire Katy Perry "Teenage Dream" album, it's gotta be 10 out of 10, right? "I wanna see you peacock...").
We then played a couple of rounds of pool and had some Dippin' Dots (the Brits were NOT) big fans, but it was so guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud) before wandering down to the Boardwalk for an AMAZING sunset. And then, with our bellies full, our eyes burning, and our pockets empty, we hopped a cab and rolled to the airport, where we caught our flight (delayed by 1 hour, for the record), arriving back in the Sing at 2:00 AM. Let's just say work the next morning was AWESOME.
Okay, that's the trip in review and all the news that's fit to print. Well, except that I must say FAREWELL, FIZZY!!!! I expect you to continue being a staunch supporter of this blog! All the best in your next great adventure.
Chat tomorrow! Wish us luck tonight!
Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Philippines Part 2 - A perfect day in Honda Bay...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Okay, as promised, back to the catch-up from our trip to the Philippines. Tonight we'll focus one one of the more AMAZING places that I'd never heard of until moving to Asia (until landing in the Philippines for that matter!) - Honda Bay.
So the fearsome foursome was up early (5:30 AM) to grab our included brekkie (the Angels went with the "American breakfast" - the Bull went cultural and had the Filippino breakfast - which was hotter than HELL but so guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud - peppy cheekies). We ate at light speed and caught a 6:45 AM cab to the Domestic terminal (as fate would have it, there are 3 terminals in Manila - 1 international and 2 domestic. Luckily our cabbie knew which one was exclusively for PAL - Philippines Air lines - otherwise we might still be in Manila eating sisig. Come to think of it, how would that be bad...), where we became acquainted with a less than stellar aspect of Filippino flying - THE DEPARTURE TAX.
So here's the deal - it doesn't matter if you're flying to the next county or a thousand miles away - you will owe $$$ EVERY TIME YOU GET ON A PLANE. You have to rock up to the airline counter, get your boarding pass, and then saunter over to just pay pesos out the nose to the super friendly and cheeful attendant. Needless to say I was less than pleased...
All the same, by 9:15 AM, we were on the ground in Palawan, landing in the city of Puerto Princessa. The flight was great, and it was easy to find our hotel shuttle. However, the fact that homeboy was clearly Filippino and had NEON YELLOW HAIR did throw me off a bit. Details...
We hopped into the van, at which point the driver (let's call him...I don't know...NOT SO SLIM SHADY) then proceeds to chat with us.
Not So Slim Shady (NS3): "You guys want to do the underground river or Honda Bay?"
4 Expats who just want a cup of Coffee (US): "Yep, definitely on the agenda."
NS3: "We give better deal than hotel. We save you 200 pesos. But you book with us NOW. Otherwise, no deal."
(Two things run through the Bull's mind. 1. SIX DOLLARS? ALL HE'S OFFERING TO SAVE US IS SIX DOLLARS BETWEEN THE 4 OF US? Riiiiight... 2. Who the hell IS this guy and why isn't he driving us to the hotel?)
US: "We'll think about it." (Translation: "You're scaring us, Hannibal Lecter. Please move on.)
NS3: "Is good deal. You book NOW, yeah?"
US: "Nope. We want to think about it." (Translation: "Maybe I should have bought a gun in Manila.")
NS3: "Okay, I give you 2 minutes to think." (Slams door in our faces)
So the funny thing is that, when we got to the hotel, we were able to book the Underground River but had already missed the boat for Honda Bay. Our boy, however (who WORKS FOR THE HOTEL, FOR THE RECORD), was still around. So I walked up to him and said, "You can get us to the Bay, right?" He jerks up as though he's got DOG HEARING and says, "No talk here - go outside."
So after we "negotiate," I realize that he's stealing a company van and driving us, pocketing the money. But since it's his job on the line and only $6 USD a person for us, we're in! And 25 minutes later, we're at the jetty for Honda Bay.
So here's the deal, an AWESOME catamaran with sun cover and a crew of 2 for the day? $12 A PERSON. You can go to any island, where there's a charge of around $.75 a person to swim, snorkel, or lounge. And as the photos will tell you, it was just AMAZING.
The first island, Pedang, was something out of a movie. The beach was just PRISTINE, the water turquoise, the snorkeling good, and the colors just amazing. I seriously CANNOT say enough good things about this place.
The next spot, Snake Island (because it's so long...that's what she said), wasn't as cool, but it had a great stretch of beach with mangrove forests and amazing views of Palawan. I'm telling you - GO VISIT THIS PLACE NOW. You don't want to wait the 20 years until it's developed.
We then rolled over to Starfish island, where we acted like we were FIVE YEARS OLD again and did TONS of photos with various props. Seriously - our boat crew was HILARIOUS, and they whipped out every single prop in the book to make the Ang mo's look like TOTAL MORONS. For the record, they succeeded and I had a blast. I mean, if nothing else, check out this future Quidditch player in the making! "Weasley is our King! Weasley is our King!"
It was then back to the Microtel, where we had a GREAT room ON THE OCEAN. The tide swing here is MASSIVE, and so in the morning we were right on the water but in the evening about 3/4 of a mile from the sea. It was really crazy (mom and dad -like the Bay of Fundy, only not cripplingly expensive during the "shrimp festival" - sure would like to have another $15 orange juice again though...), and we spent the evening with Strong Horse (6.9% - good call Laurente!) and Pale Pilsen. We caught the shuttle into town, where we spent 2 hours eating everything not bolted to the floor at this place called Kennebush. Seriously - the locals were impressed...and THAT'S HOW WE ROLL.
It was then back to bed, as we had a 9 AM call for brekkie before a 9:30 departure to the Underground River - a finalist for the new 7 natural wonders of the world. THAT, however, will just have to keep.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

And so the preparation ends - and now it's show time...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. First off, I realize that I still owe everyone 3 days worth of blogs from the Philippines. I promise you that I haven't forgotten about them. However, as I know that they'll take a bit of time, I've been waiting until I have a solid hour to dedicate to the effort, as I don't want to short change those posts. Given that it's already 10:50 PM here in Sing Sing, tonight just won't work. It should be noted that tomorrow's not lookin' good either, but expect strong reports on Thursday and Saturday morning (pre-race).
The Bull was home late due to some evening meetings, but all the same a big milestone was crossed off tonight - the final training run before the half marathon. That's right, sports fans - after 5 solid months of prep, Four Leaf is going to attempt his first half marathon in 26 months (dating back to the stress fracture race - the Knoxville Convenant Health 1/2). I logged 5 miles in 40:55 tonight, and it felt strong and easy. Honestly, I feel like I'm ready. And considering that I'll have the bloody hydration belt AND the backpack for the run, I should DEFINITELY have plenty of fluid & fuel.
The next 3 days involve 2 things I do really well - a) sitting on my ass, and b) EATING EVERYTHING IN SIGHT. Seriously - 6 of the 7 meals before the run are going to be pasta on the theory that they might suddenly kidnap the entire running field and drop us in Siberia. I mean, hey, you never know - it could happen...
Muffin Puffin rejoined the Kandy Kickers United tonight, moving to defense in an attempt to keep herself injury free before the 10-K. What did she get for her troubles? Kicked in the shin by a 6 foot Swedish gal - awesome...
And in the BIGGEST news of the day - I SAW MY FIRST SINGAPORE RAT TODAY!!!! Now granted, this guy wasn't quite like the London or NY Subway rats, but still, he was holding his own. I will say that he did look quite confused (chasing his tail, in fact) - probably because he'd never actually walked on a sidewalk COMPLETELY devoid of trash by a river.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Monday, 23 May 2011

It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Yes, yes - I realize that the title of tonight's blog could very well be the title of my autobiography or the quote that best describes the Bull's time abroad, but I'm betting that at least the good Mr. Rice will know the quote. It's a fitting quote for the weekend recap, as it was a fun one.
The weekend started in earnest (after the 12+ hour sleep) with a GREAT brekkie at Boomerang (in the hunt right now as my favorite joint in Sing Sing). After a flat white and TONS of food, we rolled over to the Sundown Running Weekend Expo, moving us one step closer to the official return to fitness (he types this whilst shoveling Spicy Nachos doritos down his gullet...but hey, he didn't have many options after the BLOCK OF CHEESE he just consumed...CHUUUUUUBBYYYYYY BUNNNNNYYYYYY!!!!!) by picking up our race packets. As fate would have it, this turned out to be quite the adventure.
So here's the deal - given that Singapore is CRAZY about having appropriate documentation to collect anything, I had printed out about 47 sheets of paper in addition to having both my old AND new passports on hand. The printout said that the expo was at the Changi Exhibition Center, which is what we told the cabbie. He starts driving us out there, and about 20 minutes into the drive (we were practically in Burma) he says, "Why you go Changi? There nothing there? Is open field and expo is over?" I assume he's a) demented, b) confused, or c) doesn't want to drive that far, but sure enough, another 10 minutes brings us to the ASS END OF THE UNIVERSE - a spit of land overlooking some water and undeveloped scrub. There is this old airplane hangar and NO ONE ANYWHERE CLOSE. I look at the form that says:
I show this to the cabbie who says, "Why you say exhibition center?"
Cabbie: "No, no - this different exhibition center. This expo center. This back in town. I take you there." (OBVIOUSLY, BECAUSE WITH WHAT WE'LL PAY YOU, YOU CAN RETIRE AFTER THIS RIDE)
And sure enough, another 20 minutes later, we're at the EXPO center, where we so conveniently learn that it was an easy metro ride from our place....grrrrrrreat.....
But we got our bibs, some goo, and even new shorts and a Camelback for Muffin Puffin! We spent about an hour there, and I found out about 2 more half marathons here later in the year (and I just finished signing up for both of them). Bring on the heat, baby!!!!! Sammy's gotta burn off some beer calories!!!!
We then headed back to the casa, where we packed a picnic basket and then headed to Fort Canning Park for the featured event of the evening - MacBeth in the Open Air theater. This was REALLY cool - not as groovy as Regent's Park, but still very neat in its own right (and much, much warmer...). Picnicking is "encouraged," and by "picnicking" they mean "bring your booze" - we seriously heard about 40 champagne corks pop before the show started.
The performance was very well done, and they made good use of the space. All in all, this was really groovy.
On Sunday we didn't do much - a brunch at Bar Bar Black Sheep (tell me that's not the greatest name EVER) before coming home to relax and do some travel research (Shocking, I know...) before heading over to the gym for a last long run. I logged 13 KM (8 miles) on the treadmill, and Muffin logged 9.2 in a very valiant effort, especially considering how much pain her foot's been in lately. And get this - she swam ~3000 meters tonight! She's an animal! I biked for 45, so I pretty much look slack compared to that effort.
Dinner on Sunday was back to wine connection, where we tore up some AMAZING pasta - seriously, that place is the best kept secret in Singapore!
Okay, that's the weekend in review and definitely all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Truly one of the best kept secrets in Asia - the Philippines Part 1...

And a good Sunday afternoon to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. GOOD NEWS!!!! The world didn't end yesterday! Preacher man - you're now 0 for 2. Why don't you give it a rest and let those actually capable of bringing about the end of the world provide the warnings next time?
Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY RICE!!!!!! Yesterday (also known as "AA" - "almost armageddon"), Brother Rice joined the Larry Bird Club. Happy to have you here, man - it's where the magic happens.
Okay, so I know that I've been a bit slack in getting my last trip update to you, so I'm going to begin rectifying that right now. And so, without further ado, I present you the Philippines Part 1 - making magic in Manila. Cue music!
Saturday: Where's Lily?
So this day started EARLY for Team Taylor - 4 AM alarm clock, 4 AM cab, 4:50 arrival at Changi airport. As fate would have it, we pulled up to the terminal right behind Sarah, who along with Lily was one of the 2 architects of this trip. We checked in smoothly, had our first Starbucks in Singapore (after FIVE months), cleared security, and got to the gate no problem. The flight was at 6:20 AM, with boarding at 5:50. And so, at 5:47 AM, I make the casual remark of, "Wow, Lily's cutting it a bit close. They might have to put her in the jumpseat." About 9 seconds later, Sarah's phone rings. I could only hear half of the conversation, but this is pretty much the recap (I've filled in what I assume was being said on the other end):
Sarah: "Hey, Lily. Where are you?"
Lily: "@#$@#$@#%!@#@!#"
Sarah: "Oh, you just woke up?"
Sarah: "No, don't just drive to the airport now. See if you can get on a later flight."
Lily: "@#$@#@!#$%@#$@#$@#$!!!!!!!"
Sarah: "Yes, I think that's a good plan. Text me and let me know."
And so, down one of Sam's Angels, the 3 of us boarded a JetStar flight bound for Manila. And so began a VERY eventful trip.
Manila - capital of the Philippines and bigger than half the countries in Europe. A city made up not of neighborhoods but OTHER CITIES, joined loosely by a confederation of rail lines, shiny open air silver buses, and more walkways than in the whole of Singapore. Before ever arriving in Manila, I'd received 3 pieces of advice:
1. Puma - "It is a chaotic mess. Get out as soon as you can."
2. Team Schott - "Buy a plastic gun from the airport and walk around with it on your hip. It's the only way to guarantee safety."
3. Jac (member of my team from the Philippines): "It's not as safe as Singapore - watch your valuables. In fact, wear your backpack in front."
Armed with only these 3 pieces of information, we arrived at Manila International airport. But let me state for the record now - MANILA. IS. AWESOME.
Seriously, we had a BLAST in this city. Manila (and the Philippines in general) have not yet been discovered for the tourist destination they should be yet, meaning that it's not yet "catering" to tourists. Consequently, it's still super easy to travel like the locals, eat tons of great local food, and truly experience the Filipino culture. This was one of the things I loved about Manila - it truly felt Filipino - nothing edited for tourists. It was colorful, vibrant, chaotic, and full of energy. My description was organized India. Sarah's description was clean and successful Jakarta. All in all, we really enjoyed our day here.
That being said, should you visit - one key point: DON'T TREAT THE MAP LIKE IT'S A MAP OF AN EASTERN EUROPEAN OLD TOWN. Here's the deal - we set out to "walk to Greenbelt," an area that Mary (another teammate from the Philippines) had recommended. Well, on the map we got, it looked to be about...oh, I don't know...20 minutes walking. However, after 30 minutes of walking in SEVEN HUNDRED DEGREE HEAT, we found out that we'd only covered about .00000001% of the distance required. And so, in true Puma fashion, we did what anyone would have done - hopped the LRT, baby!
So we buy our rail tickets, and the first train is more packed than the last helicopter leaving Saigon. However, when they see Jenny and Sarah, the boys are start saying, "Come on in! There is room!" Funny, because they didn't make room for me...all the same, we did manage to get onto the second train and get down to EDSA, at which point we had to queue again for the MRT (none of the train lines are connected - it's like KL that way), which ultimately got us to Greenbelt 1 hour and 7 miles later (I was pretty sure Sarah was going to either a) stab me in the FACE or b) collapse from starvation). That being said, we did manage to find some Sisig (a local pork, squid, and rice dish), and I ate LIKE IT WAS MY JOB.
After that, I whipped out the map and realized that I'd taken us EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION from all of the main tourist sites, and so we piled back into a cab and headed to the first destination of the day - Rizal Park. This 52 acre park, complete with the country's largest flagpole (notice a pattern here?), had some cool statues, an area for chess, and even a Chinese garden to wander through (entry was 18 cents USD). We then walked past many a "Congrats Manny the Pacman!" banner en route to Intramuros, the old colonial Spanish section of the city, built in the 1660's. One neat feature was the golf course IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OLD FORT, complete with hitting past Devil's sentry boxes and cannons - very cool. The highlight of the old town was the Cathedral, which has been rebuilt EIGHT TIMES since the 16th century. Now THAT is dedication, ladies and gentlemen.
At this point, it should be noted that the 3 of us wanted only 1 thing - something to drink. Granted, Sarah wanted a juice and Jenny and I wanted alcohol, but hey, there was still some solidarity there. Finding booze, however, required FINDING A BAR. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, proved somewhat trickier than expected.
After a solid hour of wandering, however, Team Taylor and Sarah struck liquid gold (literally) with this GREAT restaurant on a jet in the middle of Manila harbor. Dude - this place was AMAZING. Oysters Rockafeller (Cat - you would have LOVED it) for $1 USD apiece, complete with garlic, butter, tobasco, bacon, spinach, and cheese. It was LIFE CHANGING - so much so that we ordered 2 plates of them (along with some sushi and other nibbles). Oh, and the Bull finally made good on crossing off Kristine's (another member of my team from the Philippines) to dos - we found the beer, baby!
In case you're curious - there is only 1 name for brewskis in the Philippines - San Miguel. Granted, they do about 7 different kinds of beer, but it all comes from the same place. Muffin and I rocked Pale Pilsen, San Miguel Light, and Superdry (we didn't try Ice - next time...), whilst Sarah took down a pair of juices and we all watched the sun set. After that it was the walk home, which happened to be right across the street from...wait for it...wait for it...CASINO FILIPINO, BABY!!!!!! Heeeeeeelllllllllo gambling!!!! And whilst they didn't have craps, you could play a LONG time on 1000 pesos ($30 USD), and so Muffin and I sat down determined to retire on nickel slots. As fate would have it, I got cleaned out after 45 minutes. Muffin, however, hit some crazy ass "100 spins at quadruple value" jackpot and ended up leveling us out. I LOVE YOU, PUMPKIN!!!!! 53 WEEKS UNTIL VEGAS!!!!! Yazz - start saving now!!!! Ogas - Jenny's already requested a Pai Gow refresher - drinks are on us...
We then showered, had another Pale Pilsen (these puppies were less than $2 USD a pop, baby!!!! WOOOOO-HOOOOO!!!!!), and then watched lovely Lily sprint into the hotel lobby!!!!
That's right, folks - Lily did catch a later flight, and so she got to join us for dinner. We walked over to this GREAT Chinese joint, where we proceeded to GORGE ourselves on food (SO GUUUUUUUD - peppy cheekies). Side note - I can't say ENOUGH good things about the food in this country - every meal was EPIC...as was my dunlap when it was all over...
After that it was back to the hotel (we found out from Lily's cab driver that we were staying in the red light district - good times...), at which point we PASSED OUT, knowing that we had a 5:30 AM wake up call for an EARLY flight to the next spot in the Philippines. That, however, is another story for another time.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Friday, 20 May 2011

Crossing off another Sing Sing to-do...consumption of...chicken feet...

And a good Saturday morning to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. It's the weekend!!!!!!!!!!!! So this one will be quick, as it's already 2 in the afternoon and Team Taylor is fresh off a 12+ hour snooze. However, I simply had to let the world know that Team Taylor had a foray into the brave new world of Chinese cuisine yesterday. You see, I rocked up with the team to Bosses (the Chinese Mafia place), which was AWESOME as usual because a) the food is wicked awesome and b) everyone except me at the table spoke Chinese, and so it was pretty much like I was in a fancy 18th century opium den for about 90 minutes.
When we sat down, Nancy and Adeline looked at me and said, "Sam, chicken feet is on the menu...and we've already ordered it for you." Now a little back story here - I have never really planned to eat chicken feet. I gotta be honest, every time I see JUST THE FEET OF A CHICKEN and think about how much SHIT those feet have walked through (literally), I tend to lose my appetite. And then, when you factor in a) the fact that it's all cartilage, b) there are TONS of bones inside, and c) THERE IS A BLOODY TALON ON THE END OF THE FOOT, it just really loses all appeal. However, as I was amidst a group of 8 people who LOVE them and felt I must try it, I buckled down for the adventure.
The feet came out first, and so of course I was the one to dance with them. The picture really doesn't do it justice, as I agonized over this for about 5 minutes. You are seeing me 2 seconds before impact. The other photo, however, captures me 2 seconds AFTER impact. Let me give you a brief description:
1. It was declawed - that might be the only reason I'm still alive.
2. Chewy. Fatty. Crunchy. Soggy. Yep, that pretty much covers it.
3. FILLED WITH BONES THAT NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT. I'm lucky I still have my teeth.
4. Did I mention soggy?
I will say that I am SO GLAD I've tried it, but I don't see me trying it again. It was kind of like chewing on teryaki covered pig fat wrapped in a stick that you have to spit out - that's honestly all I can equate it to. Evelyn - I hope I am not a disappointment in your eyes now. :-) Bring on the Durian! Which reminds me - one of the gals at dinner is hosting a DURIAN PARTY tonight! Oh, and we also talked about how, in Korea, you eat live octopus at dinner, and you have to catch it as it runs off your plate. Once you catch it and eat it, it a) panics because it's in your mouth (understandably) and squirts ink ALL OVER YOUR TEETH, and b) it attaches it's tentacles to your tongue in an effort to not fall down your esophagus. In a word - WOW.
Okay, I'll give you the rest of the evening and the weekend later (as well as Manila, of course). However, it's time for some 3 PM brekkie!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Just one question - "What does your husband do?"

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Sammy the Bull popped up at 6:15 AM this morning to log 5 miles, and I'm happy to report that, after a 6 day break in the action, I felt GREAT for 5 miles. I had the fuel belt, but luckily I didn't need a single sip of water or Gatorade for the entire run. I was helped by the fact that the weather was great - until the sun came up. Seriously - sunrise over the Marina Bay Sands is AMAZING, but DAMN does it made it instantly 45 degrees hotter.
So this evening was a real treat for Team Taylor and Sam's Angels. Tonight Muffin, Lily, Sarah, and I made the trek to the NUS (it's the local Singapore University) Cultural Center for the Arts to watch the Hot Curry Production of "The Expat Wife." I had heard GREAT things about this show, and I am happy to confirm that it did NOT disappoint.
The show was, in a word, HILARIOUS. It's about a couple that moves from London to Singapore on an expat assignment and all of the emotions and experiences they go through. And whilst yes, some of the stories are exaggerated (sort of like a certain blog that some of you might occasionally read), there were some DEAD ON sections about life due south of peninsular Malaysia (P-Dawg - there was a taxi scene that you would have CACKLED at - CRUB STREET!!!!). I am pretty sure I was laugher harder than most folks in there, but maybe I was just laughing louder and deeper because I was ONE OF ONLY 10 DUDES IN A 500 SEAT AUDITORIUM. Seriously, on the way in I saw someone from the running club, and she asked, "Did your wife drag you to this?" To which I had to reply: "Actually, I suggested that we attend this one." REAL MEN LOVE DRAMA, DAMN IT.
I will say that, despite all the jokes, there was one serious moment at the end which I think so aptly captures life as an expat. One of the wives repatriates, and in her farewell speech (with the cast frozen - she's talking just to the crowd) she says, "When I moved from Hamburg, I missed my European family terribly, and I longed to see them again. Now that I've moved back to Hamburg, I miss my Asian family - I can still hear their voices in my head, and I wish I could see them again."
It's hard to sum it up any better than those 2 sentences - this experience has been and continues to be AMAZING and one that I would never, EVER trade under any circumstances. The friends, the shared memories, and the laughs - all of it will forever live as some of the happiest days of my llife. But I have no lie to tell - saying goodbye each time is tough, as no matter what you hope, the reality is that seeing those new and dear friends again will never be as frequent as it was during your time in country, and certainly never again as frequent as you would like.
And in a final bit of irony, I found it HILARIOUS that, once the show was over, a theater full of expats wandered out onto the street and all suddenly came to the same revelation - we were in the middle of nowhere and needed transport home. The only problem was that NONE OF US knew how to navigate the bus network. And so there I was, standing with 500 expats, all dialing 6552-1111 ("Thank you for calling Comfort and City Cab - have a pleasant day!"), hoping to be the next in the booking queue.
In other news:
CONGRATS, MOMMA!!!!!!!! SCHOOL IS OUT!!!!! YIPPEE!!!!!! YIPPEE!!!!!!!!!1
Last but not least (and 4 days late) - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CP!!!! I hope it was a good one!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Back in action, baby!!!!!

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Okay, so first off, my sincere apologies for not warning you before Team Taylor vanished from cyberspace. I sat down to blog on Friday night, determined to spin you all a quick yarn about the day's activities and give you the news that there would be NO BLOG until tonight, as Team Taylor was Philippines bound, baby!!! However, I logged on to find that, for the FIRST TIME in all of my 440+ posting sessions, Blogger was finally down. To their credit - they are back up and running now, and the service is still quality (as were the communications and service recovery - it's like they had C-Web rockin' the comms and audience engagement or something).
So yes, Team Taylor has been in the Philippines for the past 4 days, and let me tell you - IT. WAS. AWESOME. Seriously - this place is THE undiscovered jewel of Southeast Asia. However, that tale will have to keep until this weekend, as the Bull and the Striker are EXHAUSTED after long days at work and very little sleep. You see, we boarded the 9:10 PM flight last night fully aware of the fact that we wouldn't land until 12:40 in the morning in Sing Sing. However, things quickly went from expected to rubbish when the pilot (whose command of English rivaled my command of the language of the Kalahari bushmen) came over the PA:
"Ah, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain.....uhhhhhh, we, uhhhh, had to offboard a passenger....but uhhhhhh, we can't find his bag. You see, this is a bad, uh, security concern, so, uh, we need to make sure the passenger has his uhhhhh bag. It will be 5 minutes."
"Ah, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain (NO KIDDING)....uhhhh, we, uhhhhh, can't find the bag. We can't fly with the bag we can't find, so, uhhhhh, we're going to look for the bag (WTF WERE YOU DOING FOR THE PREVIOUS 5 MINUNTES?). It will be 10 minutes."
"Ah, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain (I CAN'T WAIT TO BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN)....uhhh, so we cannot find the bag, and we cannot fly without finding the bag. I have made the decision to unload every single bag and count them (IS THIS GUY SERIOUS?). It will be 15 minutes."
"Ah, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain (DON'T SAY THAT AGAIN OR I WILL STAB YOU WITH A SOLDERING IRON)....uh, good news...uhhh, the passenger had the bag the entire time, uhhhh, he's already gone home, but we called him and found that he had the bag (AND WE BELIEVE THAT? THAT'S ALL IT TOOK?), so, uhhhh, I think we are ready. Just doing some final paperwork. It will be 5 minutes. However, we will still land on time."
To close the story - the on time landing did NOT happen. Instead, we landed at 1:40, were home by 2:30, and in bed at 3. I woke up at 8:00 just before the alarm, but Perfect Pumpkin was OUT until the alarm clock went off. Seriously - you could have hosted the Kudzu Hollerin' Contest in our bedroom and she wouldn't have stirred.
So that was our last story of the trip. To get the rest, however, to quote Paul Harvey, you'll have to stay tuned until the weekend to hear "The Rest of the Story" (thinking of you, Dad), as tomorrow and Friday will have other topics.
It should be noted that the Bull was inactive for a SIXTH STRAIGHT DAY, but Muffin Puffin did rock some Body Attack. Also, I finished "Born to Run" tonight - in a word: AMAZING. Seriously - if you are a runner, you HAVE to read this. Miller - you MUST put this on your reading list, as it will blow your mind. All the same, I still hate you.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow - glad to be back online!
Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 12 May 2011

He's going the dis-tance....but NOT for SPEEEEEEED...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. I come to you tonight, EXHAUSTED but happy. Why, you ask? Well, I'm glad you did - I'll tell you... :-)
2 hours, 8 minutes, and 1 second. That's about the time it takes to drive to Chapel Hill from the Queen City (it's only 45 minutes if you're Nik Patel or GC Robinson, but for the rest of us...). That's more or less the time it takes to fly from CLT to the Big Apple. It's also the time it took Sammy the Bull to run 13.1 miles tonight. That's right, sports fans - tonight I completed my LAST long training run and FINALLY hit the milestone.
That's my longest run since March of 2009 and the longest time running consecutively since 2006. Now don't get my wrong - it's by NO MEANS my best time. In fact, if that had been the actual race, that would have been the worst time I've ever turned in for a half. But honestly, it's not about the time on this one (as much as I would like it to be). This time, it's just about being able to say that I've managed to get back on the horse. This time it's about knowing that I'll be able to walk to that starting line, confident that I can finish the race.
I ended up walking 6 times for a total of 18 minutes. I went through 3 salt tablets, a pack of "Carb BOOM" (gotta love that name), 4 eight ounce bottles of water/Gatorade, and sucked down well over 1 liter of water from the backpack. After the 15 minute mark, every step of the run was effort, and the only time I felt "comfortable" running was a six minute stretch between 1:37:40 and 1:43:43 (after which it hit me like a brick and I had to walk for 2 minutes). When it was over I looked as though I'd just been swimming during a Hurricane. But after it's all said and done, I'm really pleased, because now I know I can do it in the heat (that's what she said).
And in case anyone's curious about the heat, remember those pictures from the Skypark and the part in the blog where I talked about Jenny swimming OUTSIDE on Sunday? Yeah, well here's an interesting tidbit: this weekend, Saturday and Sunday posted THE TWO HOTTEST DAYS IN THE PREVIOUS SIX YEARS IN SINGAPORE! Now granted, they only hit 93 degrees, but when you consider it was about 160% humidity and that the sun's rays are MERCILESS down here, you can see why we looked COOKED in those photos.
It should be noted that Muffin Puffin logged 5 miles outside as well and rocked it. That's her last long run as well, as we're in the taper down mode at this point!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Not even qualifying as a "Pineapple" blog...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. It's 11 May, which means HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTIN WARF!!!! I'm assuming you're now in the Larry Bird Club with Dinger and I, but fret not - since 30 is the new 20, it's great up here in the rare air of the early thirties...
So I have no lie to tell any of you (and the Terrier even got a preview of this) - tonight's blog is BORING. I worked all day, had a few late calls, signed off at 9 PM, made myself a Marmite and peanut butter sandwich (they WILL serve Marmite in Heaven - I've officially decided). Worst of all (though I'm sure my VFF is thrilled), I did NOT work out today. No treadmill, no bike, no sit-ups (not that those EVER factor into the equation) - nothing. I'm telling myself it's all "conservation" for the upcoming long run, but the truth is I was just too lazy to run in 90 degree heat at 9 PM. Honestly, having reviewed all sides of it, I'm pleased with the decision. :-)
Muffin Puffin rocked Body Attack tonight (again, can I just make a comment about HOW MANY OF THIS REDONKULOUS classes there are? Body Combat, Body Attack, Body Pump, Body Sculp, Body Lay Yourself Under a Train, Body Try Waterboarding It's Fun, Body Caning...you name it - my wife is an animal), so at least one of us burned some calories. And Catherine Cay - good news for you - you'll get to see "the apparatus" again tomorrow - I'm breaking out the backpack for the run. :-)
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

I mean, I know I'm chubby, but...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. It was a good evening for Team Taylor, as Jenny the Striker continued improving the minds of Singapore's youth by tutoring reading again this evening. The story of the evening was "Jack and the Beanstalk," but the only clue Jenny gave me was "Into the woods, and out of the woods, and home before dark!" Seriously - my muffin puffin is just too cute.
The Bull logged 50 minutes and 30 KM on the bike this evening and felt strong the whole way. During the ride I finished "The Ghost Map" by Steven Johnson, and I can highly recommend the first 80% of it (I think in percentages now that I'm a Kindle user). The last 20% however, spent entirely on pontificating about things which have NOTHING TO DO with the book, are better left unread. All the same, it's worth the plunge if you can get a discounted copy.
On a totally unrelated note - here's Sammy's fun game for the evening (which, I am guessing, will ONLY appear to guys about my age who owned a Nintendo) - starting with Glass Joe, how many boxers on Mike Tyson's Punch-out can you name? I think I have all of them, but I'm a little fuzzy on the order in the final league. Don't be shy and DON'T use Google - let's see who knows Little Mac in the crowd...
So the blog title: As some of you may have noticed, I'm down 20 pounds since moving to the Sing. Whilst I've still got a ways to go, there's no debating I look healthier than Casper the Chubby Ghost who haunted the halls of Canada Square for 18 months. However, just when you think you're turning a corner, something happens that slaps you right in the face.
On Saturday Jenny and I were walking through a shopping mall (because it was 2 million degrees outside - you stay indoors as long as you can), when we saw some board shorts. Now as expected, my swim trunks are starting to show some wear, and so we're currently on the lookout for replacements. Sure enough, we find 2 GREAT pairs on the rack, and I even think they'll fit perfectly. But since it's a Japanese garage sale, guess what size fits Four Leaf - DOUBLE EXTRA LARGE. That's right - XL didn't have a PRAYER of fitting around my waist. XXL might have been snug after a wash, but at least I could get it on. And since I simply couldn't bring myself to ask "Do you have XXXL?", I just walked away empty handed. I mean, come on, man! I'm already laying off the beer. I can't lay off the rice as well! But hey - that's life as an ang mo in the Sing. What can I say - you get used to it.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Monday, 9 May 2011

Crossing off another Sing Sing to do - the Sands Skypark...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Team Taylor divided and conquered on the exercise front this evening, with Sammy the Bull logging another workout at the track (BRUTAL) whilst Muffin Puffin kicked some ass in Body Combat. I ran with the A Group for the first set, but then I got DROPPED like it was NOTHING in round 2. Seriously - I was out like the fat kid in dodgeball. And since I pretty much AM the fat kid out there, it wasn't really too surprising. But again - can they eat and drink like me? I think not...
Looking back over the weekend, Team Taylor spent the afternoon doing the ONE THING you should NOT do in Sing Sing in the month of May - WALK OUTSIDE. Seriously - it is flat BOILING here right now - it had to have been about 14 Basquillion degrees (Batten - again, for you) on Saturday, and I could think of no better activity than to walk WITHOUT WATER the 2 miles from our condo to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and casino. We tried to get into the casino, only to find out that my stylish rainbow flip flops weren't allowed. Sandals, which cover about .00001 % more of the foot, however, is somehow TOTALLY FINE. Oh well, details. We did at least learn that Jenny's sister owns a jewelry line in Asia. KJ - I can't BELIEVE that you've been holding out on us!
Instead of sitting in the air con of the casino, we did the next best thing - GOT CLOSER TO THE SURFACE OF THE SUN. We looked at buying tickets for the Skypark, but when we saw the price tag of $20 SGD, we remembered what our dear friend Lily had told us - it's free to go up to the bar! And so, sporting the "One Day in Rome" t-shirt (mom - I think it's stylish, no matter what the casino says), Team Taylor goes up to the counter to enquire about the dress code.
So here's the deal - not only is it free to go to the top if you say you're going to the bar, you don't even have to have a drink! There's a HUGE observation deck there, complete with views of the Infinity pool - check out that photo - WICKED. We spent about 30 minutes sweating 14 liters of water out of our systems before calling it a success and heading back to Esplanade, where we parked ourselves at the Archipelago Brewery for a few pints. I sat down, looked at JT, and said, "All I want is the lime wheat beer." I then looked at our waitress and said, "All I want is the lime wheat beer." And she said, "All we're not serving today is the lime wheat beer." In a word - ouch. But hey, I rallied. :-)
We then caught an early dinner at Cappadocia, a Turkish place that a) lied about their happy hour, b) didn't have Efes, c) didn't have SHA-WAR-MA!, and d) serves hummous portions that would leave elves starving. Consequently, I don't think they'll see us back again. As I mentioned earlier, we were PASSED OUT by 9 PM, waking up 14 hours later and feeling like new humans.
Sunday was another active day, as Jenny the Striker hit the waters of Sentosa for a 2500m open water swim (ANIMAL). I hit the bike hard for 45 minutes, logging 27KM. We had dinner at this GREAT little Thai place where the owner spoke ZERO English but knew how to cook - all in all, I'll take that trade every day of the week and twice on Sunday. I think got in VERY brief Mother's Day chats with Mom, Nanny, and Grandmother (via Dad) before calling it a night and passing out about 11 (so YES - a 12 hour day). But we did manage to Skype with the Aussies! Always a good time.
Happy Mother's Day (one day late in print), momma! You're the best mum EVER!!!! I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Paradise found - Thailand Part 2...

And a good Sunday evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. How great was it? Well, when you consider that Team Taylor SACKED OUT at 9 PM (that's right - NINE IN THE EVENING) on Saturday night and woke up at 11 AM this morning, you can tell that a) we REALLY made it count on Saturday and b) we were BEYOND EXHAUSTED by the time we hit the hay. But recapping the weekend is not the goal of tonight's blog - we need to wrap Thailand, baby!
On Saturday, we left the hotel at 8:30 AM for our first and only foray to the islands. I expected it to be cool, but let me tell you - Phang Nga Bay is simply EPIC by anyone's standards. WOW - what a day in paradise. Our guide, Lim, was very good, although he struck TERROR into my heart early when he said, "You will go to 5 island today including floating maaaahket...floating maaaahket." Seriously, I had IMMEDIATE flashbacks to being in the Delta with Dingbat, and consequently I was in a dark place for about 5 minutes. However, we were soon on the pier for the journey, and all was right with the world.
You'll see me splash a whole host of pics up on this blog, but the reality is that the photos simply don't do this place justice. We had a 45 minute boat ride, during which time the islands of the bay emerged from the distance. When we got close, we hit the first island, Penang Island, where we had SUCH a cool experience - canoeing through a bat cave (and YES - Lim made the "Batman waiting for you!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!" joke about 714 times - SERIOUSLY)! So here's how they do this - basically Jenny and I step into a rubber canoe, and our guide does ALL the paddling. All you have to do is take photos. You enter the cave through a hole in the rock that's built for someone of "The Littles" cartoon (yes - I went there), which involves you LAYING DOWN until you're under the level of the boat. You then lay there and hope your face doesn't get clawed whilst your guide pushes you through. For the record - you rise/repeat this another 3 times, as he takes you around the various areas of the island (we saw TONS of monkeys - including one swimming!).
After Penang Island, we went to Hong Island, where we got a chance to swim around a bit (as well as be lazy whilst our guide canoed). It was BLAZING hot out there, so some much needed ocean time was JUST what the doctor ordered. We then stepped back onboard the boat for the next big activity of the day - LUNCH!
Seriously - these guys had prepared a FEAST, and we ate like kings - chicken satay, coconut shrimp, tons of rice, salad, you name it. I was one CHUUUUUUBBY BUNNY when it was over.
After that it was over to the FLOATING MAAAAAHKET...FLOATING MAAAAAAAHKET, where I FINALLY got to see one in action. It was really cool, and Jenny went into OVERDRIVE working this gal for a beach outfit. The gal wanted something like $15 for a beach shirt (which was really cute, for the record), but Jenny was having none of it. She drops the "I'll give you $8" speech, and when the gal pauses, Muffin Puffin just turns and bolts (I was really impressed, for the record), and the gal instantly calls back "Okay $8!!!" Similarly, I bought a sarong (yep, that's right - and I look HOT in it - who says dudes can't rock dresses on the beach?"). I was willing to pay a whopping $6 (she'd started me at $15), and I was honestly going to come back to her after I browsed a bit. However, when she started screaming "Okay $5! $5!!!!" I honestly couldn't help myself. And let me tell you - there is NOTHING sexier than a pasty white ang mo rockin' a black and blue skirt with little fish bone pictures on it - good times.
We then rolled over to James Bond Island, so named because the movie "The Man with the Golden Gun" was filmed here in 1974. We just walked around this place for about 30 minutes, but it was SO COOL. All I could think of was Dr. Evil's lair and picture sharks with lasers on their heads circling in the water. However, aside from my mega-hot wife, I didn't see many potential fembots...details. Incidentally, the first photo of the blog was taken at James Bond Island - it's most famous for that column that sticks up in the middle of the bay.
The last stop of the day was Tulu island, which involved about 20 seconds on the canoe and then 15 minutes in a malaria infested mangrove swamp. Granted, it was a less than profound way to end the trip, but there was no denying that it was among the best day trips we've EVER taken. And then, on the way home, our boy Lim brings up about 4,000 pounds of chicken and starts chucking strips into the water. 10 minutes later, we have EIGHTEEN EAGLES following the boat, swooping down and looking like one of the Five Armies from the Hobbit. Seriously - it was out of this world watching those birds swoop down like lightning bolts and fly in from the distant peaks of the islands. Some of them even caught the chicken in mid-air! SO COOL. We were then treated to a SPECTACULAR sunset along the water, with the sun finally dipping below Phuket island. Again - just amazing and WAY better than expected or advertised.
We finally arrived back at the hotel 90 minutes late but with NO complaints. We then rolled into Kata, where we found a CUTE little rooftop restaurant (we were the ONLY cats in the place). Muffin of course rocked some Tom Yam, and I went for another fiery curry. And then, with full hearts and fuller bellies, we passed out around 11 PM.
On the Sunday, we were WORTHLESS (which was great). We checked out of the hotel and then promptly walked RIGHT BACK INTO IT, spending all day swimming by the pool, swimming in the ocean (which was POWERFUL - not like last time!), and just relaxing. And considering that there was the "local market" in the hotel, we were drinking $1.50 beers whilst chillin' with the Kindle and livin' the high life (sans the Lady in the Moon).
We then engaged in the final activity of the trip - a last dinner at After Beach Bar! We rocked up there about 4:30 in the afternoon, spent 3 hours sitting on the bench that faces the ocean, watched the sun go down, and literally got emotional about 15 times about how truly blessed and lucky we are to have each other and be on this amazing adventure together. The smile on my face in that photo pretty much says it all.
We then rolled back to the hotel and then the airport, at which point we "made our stage" and headed back to the Sing.
Okay, that's Thailand in 2 posts and definitely all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Viva Cinco de Drinko, Baby!!!!!

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. So first off, apologies for no blog these past 2 nights. However, when Money and Dan are in the Sing, you can pretty much bet that the evenings will be late and booze will be involved, meaning that bed time has tended to be about 1 in the morning, with some fairly early wake-up calls.
So Thursday night, 5 May, was of course the rather festive "Cinco de Mayo" celebration, which is (of course) something COMPLETELY foreign to the people of Singapore. However, feeling moved by the "grito de hidalgo," we booked in for a Mexican fiesta at a place called (appropriately enough) "Vivo Mexico!" It should be noted that, when I went to book, Jenny said, "Man, I bet we waited too late. It's gonna be PACKED." I simply looked at her as though she was from Mars. Sure enough - a table for 12? NO PROBLEM.
So we rocked up to this place and had a VERY welcome surprise. Whilst odd that there was NO MENTION of Cinco de Mayo and the staff spoke ZERO Spanish (one guy knew "de nada" - that was it - and that cat was definitely NOT from America del Norte), the good news was that Thursday night was ALL YOU COULD DRINK CORONA AND MARGARITAS FOR $25 NETT NETT (meaning tax and tip included)!!!! Consequently, we sat down for a PROPER feast and session.
The food was actually quite good, and the staff was on their game getting brewskis and drinks to us. It was Tobia
s' first Mexican meal, and as you can tell he quite enjoyed his burrito. Actually, that was the funniest part of the entire evening - the collection of people assembled. There were about 12 of us at the peak of the evening, all from either the US or Britain. No one knew everyone there, but everyone got on quite well and seemed to have a blast (granted, booze helps, but still). The credit truly goes to Sarah Smith, as she's the linchpin linking all of these folks together. But I guess that the credit truly goes to Lovely Lisa Watkinson, who first introduced us to Sarah, who asked Lily to join us for lunch, who invited us to Bali where we met Anne Marie, who was traveling with Tobias in KL, and so it goes. What can I say - it is VERY interesting being an expat in a city filled with other expats, as I find that you bond together quicker and forge friendships at an accelerated rate, something that is essential in such a transient place. Singapore is a place for affinity groups (like the Shufflers), and the different clubs offer an opportunity to meet some AMAZING people who share a lot of your own interests, have had some CRAZY experiences, and more often than not love traveling and adventure. These shared experiences and tip swapping make the conversations lively, funny, and very enjoyable, and I definitely think that it helps to bring people closer and give folks a sense of connection and belonging - again very much needed when your friends and family are thousands of miles away.
The work day was good on Friday, but the evening was even better, as Pumpkin, Money, Dan, and I rocked up to Wine Connection for some DELICIOUS food - seriously, the best we've EVER had there (SOOOOOO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUD, peppy cheekies). After the usual cheese tray, we rocked dishes of venison, gnocchi, and escargot pasta (yuuuuuummaaaaaaaah), along with 2 bottles of wine. It was a great night, and we even ran into Carla whilst eating! All and all, it was a GREAT night.
This morning Team Taylor SOMEHOW managed to get their lazy asses out of bed and up to McRitchie, where they logged the Rainforest Romp between 7:15-8:30. Oddly enough, as I finished, Lily was just arriving for her run (she was meeting this gal named Sydney, who was logging THREE BLOODY LAPS AROUND THE RESERVOIR), and so we chatted with them for a bit before heading home (nice job Muffin finding a cab!).
We then returned home, showered, and rolled over to Boomerang (again, MAD PROPS to Jenny for thinking of this for brekkie!), where we had a PROPER fry-up of sausage, eggs, eggs benedict, pancakes (yes, that's right - we ordered three meals for 2 people - I KNOW WHAT HEALTHY IS). We then said farewell to the Perennial Nomads, as they shouldered their packs to catch their ride for peninsular Malaysia. Safe travels, guys! See you in 3 weeks!
And don't worry - I know that I owe everyone a thrilling conclusion to Thailand - we'll come to that soon enough. :-)
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Guess who's back in the Sing, baby!!!!

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. It was a quiet and quick one for Team Taylor, as the work day was quite busy. That being said, no complaints on our front, as I did make it to the gym to log a quick 5 K, turning in my best time in YEARS - 21:01!!! I definitely had more gas in the tank the last quarter mile, and I wish I'd known the time (I was clocking the mileage only on the treadmill) as I got near the end, as I could have upped the velocity. That being said, I'm very pleased to have my first sub-7 set in YEARS, and I'm hopeful that, with the 2 good runs this week, I'm definitely primed and ready for Sundown.
It should be noted that, in an effort to assimilate culturally, I greeted everyone on my first call today in Chinese - or at least I thought I did. Everyone joined the call with the normal "Hello!" or "How are you!", but I decided to spice things up. So when the Bull joined, he said, "Nee Haw Ma!", which is supposed to be "How are you?" However, the silence on the phone suggested that I didn't quite make that impression, and so when I said it again, Evelyn politely said, "Um, Sam - you need to slow that down. You're actually cursing at us." Now granted, I thought she might be kidding, but then, this evening at dinner, I relayed the story, at which point someone at dinner said, "Yeah, you just said cock and bollucks - TWICE." AWESOME. I mean, I'm nothing if not cultural.
The person who explained this to me, it should be noted, was the perennial nomad. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, back from their 28 day stay in Indonesia, Money and Big D are back in Sing Sing! We had some drinks at Red Dot (Steve - AGAIN, the Green Monster was available) before heading over to "Ladies Night" at Sailors, where girls eat free every Wednesday. It was SO GREAT to catch up with them, especially since they'll be off to Malaysia in 3 short days!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The standard by which all other vacations will be judged: Thailand Part 1...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Okay, so tonight Team Taylor begins the recap of what was one of THE BEST 4 day trips of our entire life (right up there with Norway, but I think we'll give the nod to the trip in question) - an island paradise known as Phuket in Jenny's DREAM destination - Thailand.
So first off, let me say that, after all we'd heard about this place, it came with VERY high expectations. This was, and has been, Jenny's NUMBER ONE vacation request for almost as long as I've known her, so we were definitely expecting great things. I am happy to report that, at NO POINT, did this place disappoint.
The flight on Wednesday night was smooth (JetStar proves to be excellent yet again), and we arrived about 9:30 PM (it's a 90 minute flight and you gain an hour), where we cleared customs easily and then rolled over to the hotel, the Katathani Beach Resort in Kata Noi Beach. Normally costing about $360 USD, we got this place for a third of that because we'd just entered "green season." Now granted, I had nightmares of Costa Rica dancing through my mind (when a tropical storm descended on the country - and REMAINED FOR 3 STRAIGHT DAYS), but luckily they proved completely unfounded.
The resort was AMAZING - one of the nicest rooms we've ever been in. There were 4 pools, a spa, a half mile of beach front property, and a market with local pricing (NOT kidding - water was $2 for SIX LITERS and brewskis were under $2!!!! SCORE, BABY!!!!). There were also 5 bars on property, and the RESORT pricing for beers was $2-4 - WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER. And so, consequently, our first stop in Thailand was the Beach Club Bar, which featured cold Chang and seats RIGHT ON THE OCEAN. We had a few there, just taking in the fact that we were FINALLY in the place we'd talked about for SO long.
We awoke on Thursday morning about 9:30, rolling out of bed for the breakfast buffet (included in the price - I LOVE THIS COUNTRY). We made Americans everywhere proud, as we SLAUGHTERED this smorgasboard. We polished off some waffles, omelets, fruit (who needs that?), pork fried rice, and about 37 million strips of bacon. Honestly, the thought of the bacon & eggs platter with a side of bacon at the Original Pancake House makes me weak in the knees right now.
After that - it was over to the pool, where Team Taylor did something they rarely do - NOTHING. I gotta tell ya - I could DEFINITELY get used to this. We split our time between the pool and the ocean, which was so calm that we could wade to our shoulders and not even get our beers wet.
We left the beach around 5 PM, as we had our first "activity" of the trip planned - sunset at the After Beach Bar. This place, basically a TOTAL SHACK on stilts on the side of a cliff, is something out of MASH or Hawaii Five-0. Picture lady boys all OVER the place (3 of them were servers - Hitman, you would have been in Heaven), Bob Marley floating over the speakers, and tables right on the edge of the cliff (actually hanging out past the cliff - it was EPIC). They took our order, at which point Muffin officially decided what was her FAVORITE MEAL OF ALL TIME - Tom Yam Seafood Soup. How do I know that this is now her favorite meal? Simple - SHE ORDERED IT FOUR NIGHTS IN A ROW FOR DINNER. Hey man, to quote Nanny: "I want what I want when I want it." Hard to argue with that logic...oh, and that mango salad beside the soup - MAYBE THE SPICIEST THING ON THE PLANET. It took a couple of beers to put those flames out - YIKES.
The sunset was beautiful, but we had to shuffle off shortly thereafter, as we wanted to discover the "big city" of Phuket - Patong. In a word - SHITHOLE.
So seriously, I've seen some shady dives in my life, and I've been several places that I've felt would make Guantanamo Bay look like Club Med (nothing like T-Bone, but you get the picture). I can confirm that Patong is RIGHT UP THERE WITH THEM. In fact, the only place more uncomfortable that I've visited is Tijuana, which isn't surprising considering that I SAW A DEAD BODY THERE.
See this photo with the girls on the bar? Yeah, only about half of them are girls. The other have an ADAM'S APPLE. What's the big "draw" for Patong - THE PING PONG SHOW. If you know what this is, then you understand how disturbing that is. If you've never seen Priscilla Queen of the Desert (my parents), then it's probably best to let sleeping dogs lie and just confirm that we did NOT see a show. I feel dirty all over still, but I at least feel better knowing that Muffin Puffin discovered the shopping street in Patong and went CRAZY buying some dresses (which she looks UBER HOT in, by the way).
Happy to still be alive and not arrested, we went home and passed out, a first GREAT full day in the books.
On Friday, we spent another day chillin' by the various pools on the property. We did wander about 10 steps off property for a bit, where we managed to get 1 hour foot massages for $6.50 apiece! After that, exhausted from our exertions, we walked back to the pools where we struck PAY DIRT. You see, at the resort, they have this roving band of massage ladies who will just come up to your chair and work on you poolside. It is AWESOME, and it's only $10 for an hour! Consequently, the Bull tracked these gals down, at which point he and Perfect Pumpkin got a guuuuuuuud rubdown in the shade of a palm tree. And don't let that tiny little pregnant gal in the photo fool you - her hands were like CAST IRON. She could EASILY have gotten a job at Helga's House of Pain.
We had dinner that evening in Kata, the local city near us. We ate at "Mama's Seafood," where I had a fiery curry to match JT's Tom Yam soup. It was then down to the water front for a nightcap, where we had a large Chang and watched these CRAZY ASS TEN YEAR OLD FIRE TWIRLERS practicing their moves. Seriously - this was something out of a Luau, as these guys were GOOD and ready to set the world on fire. We also saw a lantern floating over the water in the distance (like our Lonely Planet book! T-bone - that was for you), and the atmosphere was just awesome. Again, antother AMAZING day in the books - already we were captured by Thailand's spell.
I've got 2 more days to recap, but those will have to keep for a bit, as it's gettin' on to quittin' time here. I will just say that (for my VFF, since she LOVES my exercise updates) I logged 27 KM on the bike tonight and felt the strongest on there I'd felt in a long time. I also managed 8+ yesterday outside WITHOUT THE BACKPACK or salt tablets, which was a real confidence booster. Only 25 days until the big race - bring it on!!!!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny