Thursday, 30 June 2011

The temperature "plummets" to 85...and the jackets come out...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Okay, so first off, announcement: there will be NO BLOG until Monday night, 4 July. Why, you ask? Because Team Taylor is heading off to...wait for it...wait for it...BANGKOK, BABY!!! Who's excited about raising hell amidst the elections? THIS GUY!!!!!!!!!!
The Bull and the Striker did NOT work out today, but all is right with the world regardless, as I'm neck deep into my 3rd G & T (Grimshaw - still no Tanguray or Gordon's for this guy - it's all Bombay Sapphire, baby) and we've got delivery pizza en route - I can't WAIT. And considering that we're about to kick off some Phase 10, I'm thinking tonight could get a weeeee bit rough. But hey, it was a rough week and it's been 3 days without booze, so something had to give, right?
So today was a GREAT day to be in Sing Sing and watch the locals in action, as heavy rains forced the temperature into the low 80's, which is bloody FRIGID on the Equator. Seriously, I saw a dude wearing a coat today that I WOULD HAVE HIT THE SLOPES IN IF IT HAD BEEN NEGATIVE FORTY. I even had someone on my team tell me they'd bought a parka because it was so cold. In the office itself, EVERYONE was in a fleece and a wrap, as they were all DYING. I was in short sleeves and in HEAVEN, which is probably more proof that I havent' acclimated as much as I'd hoped in 6 months.
In other news, today officially marks the halfway point in mine and Jenny's time in Singapore. Honestly, that is HARD TO BELIEVE, as it's gone SO quickly. It should definitely be noted that we've LOVED our time here, as this is truly an amazing experience in a FANTASTIC city. However, I have no lie to tell - Jenny and I are SO excited about finally getting back to the states and settling down. Even crazier, next Friday will mark FIVE YEARS of marriage, which is so hard to believe. Last year, Jenny and I had our anniversary at Roast and couldn't believe that it had been 4 years, so imagine how shocked we are now. Even crazier is the fact that we'll hit our 8 year anniversary before we've lived more days married IN the US than outside of it. It's been quite the adventure, and I truly can't believe how blessed we are. I LOVE YOU, MUFFIN!!!!!
Bottom line, Team Taylor has 6 months left in their time abroad, and we fully intend to make it count. We are SO excited about the last 6 months, and the travel schedule is going to be particularly excessive (even by our standards). However, I can't tip my hand about anything - otherwise Shogun will tell me how boring we've become. :-)
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Startin' to come together, Pepper, startin' to come together!


And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. The Bull acheived a personal goal tonight, as for the first time since moving to the Equator he FINALLY cracked 40 minutes for 5 miles (39:16 Dinger - I'm comin' for you...). It felt great, and I had plenty of gas left at the end. All in all, I'm feeling really good about my cardio, but there is no denying it - MY BELLY LOOKS HUGE. Seriously, there is PLENTY of jam in my jelly roll at the moment. I mean, it's not like I'm eating half a block of cheese and a bag of Doritos every night at 10 PM...oh, wait...But in all honestly, I do feel like I've acclimated (FINALLY!), and I'm hoping that I can keep shaving seconds of longer and longer runs in prep for the Sydney half. I'm really going to a solid time there, so knock on wood that I can stay healthy (including the hike up Mount Kinabalu).

In other news, the work week has continued at a torrid pace. That being said, Muffin Puffin and I did get out to Sake Sushi today for lunch, which is great because it felt like the first time I'd seen her in about 2 weeks! As I've said before, the work hours are so crazy out here that you don't get a lot of time in the evening, so lunch has become very important to us. However, given how crazy work's been lately (especially for her - but don't worry, Wild Card - I'm bustin' my ass as well...), we've barely seen each other. She was actually so exhausted after the diving weekend (which she will blog about, for the record, and she's got one of the best stories EVER - it will make the Top 10 Blog Highlights of our time abroad) that she snored for a solid TEN HOURS the other night. I must confess that she's the cutest thing ever when she's snoring, but it's rare that I get to see it.

Tonight and tomorrow are the final calms before the storm, as July is going to be a CRAZY month for Team Taylor. But as we always say - gotta make it count!

Oh, and for Dad, who no doubt just saw the headline about my employer - "No, dad. They aren't going to fire me." This week, anyway... :-)

Other than that, not a whole lot else to report other than the fact that Peppermint Cadbury chocolate from the Philippines is GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD. Okay, I'm really done now.

That's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A quiet night back at the palace with Phase 10 and Jamie Oliver...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. The Bull rolled another 50 minutes on the bike tonight, logging 24 KM. Rev - whilst I'm not certain, I'm pretty sure that I've FINALLY managed to make it to John O'Groats. Hey - better late than never, right? Muffin Puffin logged a 5K (at an incline, no less!) - she is really to CONQUER KK in August!
So today was a long but super-productive one in the office. We're a bit short-staffed at the moment with the Singapore school holidays wrapping up, and so that's paved the way for a few longer evenings as of late. That being said, I'm really pleased with everything that we've managed to cross off the list, so knock on wood that it continues.
This evening was filled with Phase 10 (Yazz - you HAVE to find a deck of this and bring it with you to Sing Sing - otherwise you KNOW what will happen to you...and Memphis...just sayin'...), some wine for everyone but the Bull (2 AFD's in a row for this guy!), and now we're all sitting around watching Jamie Oliver's "Ministry of Food." If you have never seen this show (on TLC) - WOW - it is HORRIFICALLY TRAGIC AND DEPRESSING. I just have no words. But good on ya, Jamie - keep up the good fight.
My highlight of the day (what does this say for how exciting a life I lead)? Standing in the line at Subway, dreaming of my footlong meatball sandwich, I am startled when the "sandwich artist" asked me what I wanted. My response: "Football, please." Yes - I've decided, in true Singlish fashion, to just start skipping syllables and combining words. It's quicker, and I can always finish with "lah" if I think I haven't said enough. It should be noted that I found this whole episode ridiculously funny. It should also be noted that NO ONE else did (as I'm sure neither does the readership).
Yes, yes, Shogun, I know - this isn't even pineapple style. See what happens when I don't have a pub on every corner?
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Monday, 27 June 2011

A weekend of good times...and the BEST cabbie experience EVER...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. The Bull did a first tonight - exercising the day after a half marathon. I logged 30 KM on the bike in an hour, going slightly slower than normal given the fatigue in the quads. Hairless - you'll be happy to know that I proudly wore my "Livestrong" shirt (yes, the one that I BAKED the "stank" into last week in the gym and gave that stationary bike HELL whilst reading my Kindle. I looked pretty manly...and smelled pretty manly as well.
I know that I owe you a recap of the weekend, so let's jump into that. The Bull managed a lengthy but disrupted slumber on Friday night, as the cold was still with him. However, I was awake of my own accord by 9:15, had the blog down before 10, and then was over to Starbucks (where they made an AMAZING cup of coffee - my faith in humanity has been restored) and back by 10:15, at which point I did the unthinkable - IRONED FOR 1 HOUR STRAIGHT. Seriously, I'd been staring at a pile of clothes bigger than Aconcagua for the previous 3 weeks, and Saturday morning pushed me over the edge. Big Cat, don't worry -none of them are ironed well - but I did a nice job of pushing the kinks around and making some of the larger creases permanent.
After popping over for lunch at Boomerang (small Boomerang Deluxe - that's steak, pepperoni, ham, bacon, cheese, mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes for those of you curious about my pre-race calorie intake - CHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUBBY BUUUUUUUUUUUUNNY!!!!!), I hailed a cab to get over to McRitchie, as I had to pick up my race packet. It was at this point, ladies and gentlemen, that I had my best cabbie experience EVER. My driver, let's call him "Hung Lo," was QUITE the character.
So we're chatting and he's driving me down Orchard Road and he casually says, "I like to come here, you know? To see, the..uh, the girls. They are all so pretty." I think he's making casual conversation, so I agree and say, "Yes, there are a lot of pretty girls in Singapore" (none as pretty as you, Muffin!!!). But then, suddenly, Hung Lo misinterprets what I say (as well as the fact that I've said I'm married about 5 times AND have a wedding band on), and the conversation begins to go downhill. A brief recap:
Hung Lo (HL): "Ah, you like the Orchard girls, too, eh?"
Sammy the Bull (StB): (not liking where this is trending so being evasive) "I do love good people watching."
HL: "Ah, you like Orchard Towers? You been?" (Side note - Orchard Towers is basically a HUGE brothel in the center of the city - it's nickname is "Four Floors of Whores").
StB: (in shock) "To Orchard Towers? Um, no."
HL: "Ah, it is so NICE! But expensive, no? You can rent the room by the hour, but is still expensive. You pay three or four hundred for an hour. But is nice!"
StB: "Oh, wow. Didn't know that." (SOMEONE SHOOT ME IN THE FACE)
HL: "Or Geelang, you go Geelang?"
StB: "Nope. Never been there. Heard it's a neat area." (I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE GEELANG IS - WILL JUMPING OUT OF A CAR AT 40 MPH KILL ME?)
HL: "Ah, that much better. Girls not as nice but better. Different prices, but watch out for pimps. You no touch girls until you pay."
HL: "You can get Chinese girls for $100 a shot." (NO JOKE - HE SAID "$100 A SHOT"). "I like the Burma girls. They more, but they nice. And hotel is cheap. You get hotel for $20. But bring condom. Otherwise, is another $2."
StB: "$2 for a condom? That seems like a lot." (Now I'm intrigued again - LOOK AT THIS FREE MARKET ECONOMY IN ACTION - SUPPLY AND DEMAND, BABY!).
Hung Lo continues for awhile, talking about Parliament, MP's, why Singapore should buy more weapons from America - YOU NAME IT. And the worst part? Because my phone was dead and I would not have been able to get another cab, I had to ride with this guy BACK TO THE CONDO. Looking back, it was hilarious, but DAMN was that uncomfortable.
The afternoon was pretty chill, as I didn't want to expend a lot of energy. I did wander over to the Japanese grocery store with Money and Dan, and I found myself wandering down the beer isle. Now it should be noted that the bull hasn't bought A SINGLE BEER for his fridge, but on Saturday I caved. I mean, what's a post race celebration without brewskis? Granted, they don't have my High Life 40 (which is the traditional post-race drink - NOT JOKING - don't hate the Lady in the Moon), but they did have some fun Japanese stuff (shocking in a Japanese supermarket, I know), so I picked up a few. But the most shocking thing? THEY HAD CASES OF MILLER LITE. Seriously - Miller Lite was going for over $3.50 SGD a bottle, and the case was $75!!!! I looked over at Money and said, "Who the HELL would buy even ONE of those?" And sure enough, 2 seconds later, some expat wanders over and STOCKS UP on a case of it (as well as a few individual soldiers). Rice, I know that you're a Rusty Fan, but if it were MORE EXPENSIVE than Fat Tire or Sam Adams...well, I know you're with me.
Dinner that night was pasta - two rounds of it, and then bed at 10 PM (although it took me until 1 AM to actually fall asleep. Yet again, my mind was racing far too hard to go to sleep, despite chatting with Muffin Puffin and confirming that she was okay AND 3 hours of reading Shogun (Terri - 87% of the way there!).
Sunday was a nice, lazy day. After the race, it was a proper "Coolangata" at Boomerang (yep, 2nd time in 2 days). We then returned to the condo, where I knocked back my present to myself for finishing: a $10 Japanese beer. After trying the Shonan from Riegel, I was curious about Japanese beer and wanted to try a few more. Now granted, given the price I was concerned that I could be developing an expensive habit, but the Patient Zero of this new excapade was the Hitachino Nest Beer "Sweet Stout." And whilst it was tast and fun to drink a beer that you can understand about .0000001% of the label (their could have been arsenic in it for all I knew), I am pretty sure I won't be picking up too many more of those. But I did follow it off with a nice Kirin Ichiban, so all was right with the world.
I also had a 1 hour Balinese massage from THE MOST AMAZING MASSAGE LADY EVER. Granted, she did put all of her body weight on her elbow and then tried to snap my shins and shoulder blades, but it was a small price to pay for SUCH a good rub down. Nanny - I was quite the "limberneck" when I walked out of there.
After that there was only 1 thing left to do - decide on the post race supper. The selection? You guessed it - ANOTHER LARGE BOOMERANGE DELUXE pizza (yes - THREE TIMES in 4 meals). But hey, we're out of the country the next FOUR weekends, so I had to get my fill, right?
Muffin Puffin rolled home about 9, and so we all just took it easy for the rest of the evening before passing out about 11:30.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Navy SEALs wouldn't want to do this - recapping the F1 "Nature Trail Challenge"...

And a good Saturday afternoon to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. It's been a TERRIFIC weekend for the Bull, filled with good times, good food, good beer, and GREAT cabbie stories, but I think I'll hold all that in reserve until tomorrow - otherwise Shogun will complain that I've become boring again and should revert to eating pineapples. Instead I'll focus on the featured event of the weekend - the F1 Nature Trail Challenge Half Marathon. In a word - WOW. In three words - WOW. NEVER AGAIN.
So I'll just come out and say it - THIS WAS THE TOUGHEST RACE I'VE EVER DONE. There wasn't a level step the entire way, and what was REMOTELY level wasn't paved. This race was something that S.A.S. and Navy S.E.A.L. instructors would threaten trainees with if they misbehave - it was THAT rough. That being said, it was a great experience and about A BASQUILLION TIMES BETTER THAN THE SUNDOWN HALF MARATHON. Here's the recap:
6 AM: Alarm goes off - Sammy grumbles because he went to bed at 10 PM but was TOTALLY UNABLE to go to sleep (this always happens when Muffin Puffin isn't there - the first night is the worst, but it never really gets easy).
6:30 AM: Pick up the cab - head to McRitchie (you have to call it "Magrrrrriiiicheeeeeee" if you want the cabbie to actually understand where the hell you want to go).
7:15 AM: Lexxus Tan (the uber-ultra marathon man of Singapore and race organizer) announces that it's time to start the "safety briefing" (seriously - should this have been my first sign indicator?). I didn't get a whole lot of what he said (because, well, he doesn't really speak English...sorry, Eggrish...), but below is a) what I understood (ellipses indicate a period where he was talking and I was COMPLETELY lost) and b) what went through my head as I translated it (my thoughts in parens, obviously):
Lexxus: "Welcome.....(thanks! Glad to be here)....STEEP...(wait, which part is steep?)....lost, hahahahahaha...(hang on a tick - the route will be marked, right? All the same, that's why I've got 8 hours worth of water and enough energy gel to walk to Mongolia).....rifle range....stay on trail!!!hahahahahaha..(umm...did he just say we're running on the rifle range? DOES ANYONE SPEAK MANDARIN AND ENGLISH!?!?!?!) tough.....HAVE FUN!!! (NOT sellin' it, dude...)
And that was it - 5 minutes of talking at 16,000 words per minute, and I was able to extrapolate 3 sentences. However, I did run in to Lily (Sam's Angels), Victoria (Singapore Shufflers), and Sidney (friend of Lily's that I'd met previously), so at least I knew other people would be lost as hell on the course.
But all joking aside, this race was REALLY well organized. There was terrific signage, 56 marshals along the course, and 6 water stops along the way. Now granted, sometimes you had to SCALE A FENCE to get to the water, but let's not focus on the wrong kind of details, shall we? Let's also not focus on the fact that they marked the course incorrectly and consequently it was .3 KM longer than an actual 21 KM (normally not a big deal, but since this is billed as feeling like a 30 KM, every step was further than you want to run on the Equator). They had tons of photographers on the course, so expect some CLASSIC shots of the Bull laboring like a pack mule going up the Grand Canyon to come out shortly. Here's a quick recap of some of the finer points of the race:
1. 1-4 KM - STRAIGHT UP. I was sweating like a rabid banshee from about the 30 second mark on. I actually didn't know that there WERE 8,000 foot elevation gains in Singapore, but apparently there are. Seriously - going from the South Col to the summit of Everest is easier than this.
2. 4-8 KM - IS THIS REALLY A TRAIL? I had to walk more than 1 uphill. In fact, I walked about TEN OF THEM. But the worst part was walking the downhills as well - BRUTAL. Seriously, you have these INSANE 1 KM long uphills, and then the downhill is so sharp that you an only remain upright if you walk down and hold onto the trees beside the path. I watched one dude wipe out, get back up, and wipe out again 50 meters later. I can't believe I didn't eat it at least 57 times (over under was 13 in the mudpit that was Bukit Timah).
3. 8-12 KM - MONKEY TOWN. Seriously - those little bastards are just WAITING FOR YOU TO THROW OUT YOUR POWER GEL. It was AMAZING to watch them hiss at you, lick the isotonic sports drink off the street (because HEAVEN FORBID SINGAPORE EVER OFFER ANYTHING LIKE POWERADE OR GATORADE FOR RUNNERS), and then grab a used packet of goo, rip it further, and lick out the remaining gel. Those guys are bloody surgeons.
12-16 KM - WHEN DO THE HILLS STOP? I SHOULD BE ON THE SUMMIT OF K2 BY NOW. Miller, I know this wasn't the route you did, but I'm convinced that we did share some trail time. And I gotta tell you - I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU SURVIVED. I was only in Bukit Timah for 10 KM, and I feel lucky to have escaped alive. Between the sun, the humidity, the rabid monkeys desperate for power gel, the mud, the COMPLETE ABSENCE OF A TRAIL, and the hills, it was an absolute DEATH MARCH. I will say that this race is the closest I've come to ever quitting a race. The biggest reason I didn't? THERE WAS NO WAY OUT EXCEPT THE RUNNING ROUTE.
16-21 KM - SOMEONE PLEASE JUST FIND ME A FINISH LINE!!!!!! The last 5 weren't terrible, but I still walked 3 times. I just had NOTHING left in the tank, and all I wanted to do was finish alive. That being said, the finish line was AWESOME, as they hold up the tape for all the runners, and so there's gonna be a GREAT photo of me crossing the finish line looking as though I've won the race (don't worry - I made a big to-do of it). Furthermore, I got the unexpected pleasure of a medal, which I wasn't counting on, as well as the satisfaction of 18 half marathons now in the books.
As for time, I posted 2:20:34 for 21.4 KM (which is .3KM longer than a normal half). I honestly don't think I could have shaved much off that, as I was exhausted in ways that are hard to fathom. In terms of running, I'm honestly glad that I've only got 1 year in Singapore, as the thought of repeating any of these courses is more painful than a bayonette to the face. Seriously - that course was MISERABLE (but well executed - full marks to F1 for being SO MUCH BETTER than the Sundown planning crew).
There's plenty more to say (how I celebrated, the post race relaxation strategy, the rest of the weekend), but I'm going to save that for later in the week. For now I'll just say that I'm REALLY glad I ran that race, and I'm REALLY REALLY glad that it's over. And now, sipping on an Absolut Pear and Sprite with my "Plan B is for Beer" shirt on, all is right with the world.
And Wild Card - I probably owe you an apology for startling you Friday morning your time with a phone call from the Bull. It was probably doubling startling considering that you'd given up on the possibility of me working on a Friday evening YEARS ago.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow! Muffin Puffin - come home soon!!!!
Sam and (somewhere north of the Woodlands checkpoint and REALLY excited about getting fingerprinted by the Malaysian government) Jenny

Friday, 24 June 2011

How exactly do you say "Taylor" in Chinese...

And a good Saturday morning to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the LION CITY. IT'S THE WEEKEND!!!!!!!!!!!!! The last 2 weeks have been EXHAUSTING, and so the Bull was thrilled for the lie in this morning. Muffin Puffin, however, didn't get the luxury of a lie in, as she's about 5 minutes away from falling backwards off a perfectly good boat into the ocean off the coast of Malaysia. Jenny's got 3 dives today (which is AWESOME), but last night all she was offered was 4 hours sleep on a moving ferry and an 8 AM brekkie. Her sleep tonight will be EPIC.
So Friday was great on a lot of counts save one. Tomorrow the Bull goes for his 18th half marathon - the F1 Rainforest Romp. I have heard that this will be unquestionable the toughest race I've ever done, but under normal circumstances I wouldn't be remotely concerned. However, for the FIRST TIME since being abroad and for the first time EVER in his history of races (this will be my 29th half or longer), the Bull is sick. Now granted, I feel better today, but there's still no denying the fact that I've got a head cold. I think it's just from being run down, as we're not as young as we used to be (as evidenced my how PUFFY MY FACE LOOKS EVERY MORNING WHEN I GET UP - WOW, I'm old and ugly), and so week nights that always end after midnight and weekends and involve early and late travel catch up with us eventually. But hey, gotta make it count, right! Plus, I still managed to shovel down pasta for lunch and dinner, so I know that the carbs are in there. However, so is all the mucus and slightly weak feeling. Parents - DON'T WORRY. I'm in the best shape I've been in since 2008, most of the race is shaded, and I'm going in with a backpack, fuel belt, and all the salt tablets and goo a man can carry. I will look and feel like some character out of the book "Born to Run" (which is EXCELLENT, by the way), just minus the actual stamina and speed.
As for the rest of Friday, I am pleased to report that once again Money and Dan are in the Sing! Big D's got his 3rd (and we hope final) interview on Monday, so I've told him to go with the tried and true strategy of telling them: "Look, clearly you want me. Clearly I'm the best candidate. And clearly you need me a lot more than I need you. Why don't you just hand over a half a mil now, give me a month to relax, and then I'll make all your troubles go away." For some reason, however, he seems skeptical. I can't imagine why...
The classic moment from work today was when we were discussing names. I found out that Nancy doesn't have a legal middle name (but has a Chinese middle name, which for some reason the US Government just can't process - she could be Triad...hmmmm), and I found out that, in Singapore at least, folks of Chinese descent that don't have "Christian" names can just apply for them with the government. Case in point is Tiffanie (works with me - she was the one who said, "Dan Deets is what Asian girls dream of" - I'm still shaking my head...), who's real name is Ching Ching. So we start talking about this, and I say, "How do you say Taylor in Chinese." Of course I get the stock response of "TAYLOR," but I press on with, "Yes, I know, but what about if you translated the sounds of my name into Chinese - what then?" Tiffanie and Nancy both think about this, and then Tiffanie says, "Tay-loh! It would mean 'too hot.'" All I could respond was "You DAAAAAAAMN RIGHT, IT DOES." But Tiff is quick to shoot back, "No, Sam - not in that way." OUCH. All the same, you can expect plenty of emails to now be signed "Too Hot" - I am thinking of joining a boy band now that I've got this unexpected piece of new found knowledge.
In the evening I shrugged off the sickness (as you do :-)) to meet up with a work mate from Hong Kong for a few drinks. We hit up Brotzeit, were one can get a Paulaner Munich Lager on tap (that is SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD), and I enjoyed 2.5 of those little droplets of ambrosia before rolling back to the flat and hitting Bella Pasta with Money and Dan (Muffin - I got the Farfalle with Salmon - SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD...peppy cheekies). And then, plenty of pasta down the chute and the fatigue from the illness weighing me down, we all crashed about 10 PM. I did have some trouble sleeping and woke up intermittently (MAN I miss Nyquil), but on the whole I do feel a lot better. Now it's a day of sitting in the shade (DID SOMEONE SAY CASINO?) and relaxing before the run tomorrow. I am excited - just have to be smart about the whole experience. But when the race organizer is someone named Lexxus Tan (tell me that isn't a porn star name if there ever was one), what could go wrong, right?
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Too Hot and the female Jaques Cousteau

Thursday, 23 June 2011

A slight hiccup with a domestic chore...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. The Bull is taking it easy today, as he will be for the next 2. You see, the famed "F1 Rainforest Romp Half Marathon" happens on Sunday, and based on Matt Miller's description of it, I'll be lucky to survive. I'm going into that thing with 6 salt tablets, my camelback, my fuel belt, 4 things of goo, and 2 power bars. Bring it ON! I logged just over 7 last night and 4 the night before, and I do feel ready. Now it's just a case of getting plenty of sleep and hoping that the humidity drops to about 156% on race day.
And speaking of running - I tried to be a good husband last night (I make the effort once a decade, so now I'm good) by putting a load of clothes in before going out to jog. Detergent? Check. Dirty clothes? Check (in fact, it was mostly my workout gear which REEKED). Power for the washer? Check. All the settings we normally use? Check. So all is good, right? Wrong...
About 2 minutes after I'd started the cycle, I noticed this weird smell in the washer/dryer
(remember that it's 1 unit). I had my workout clothes on, and so I just assumed it was some stench that was now baked into my Livestrong shirt (T Rowe - that was for you). Given that, I just took off and thought nothing more of it. But when I came back just over an hour later, the stench had PERMEATED THE ENTIRE CONDO. Seriously - it was like someone had put a decaying skunk in the oven and turned it up to 600 degrees. So I hit the kill switch, opened the door to get the clothes and noticed that there was no steam this time (which is odd, because normally vapor from MT. VESUVIUS ERUPTS OUT OF THERE). Thinking that was a good thing (meaning I'd timed it the way Muffin always suggests), I reached in and grabbed one of my shirts. HOLY @#$# IT WAS ON FIRE SOMEONE PLEASE GIVE ME AN EXTINGUISHER I'VE JUST BURNED OFF MY FINGERPRINTS!!!!!!!! Family - there are NO WORDS. My clothes were literally BURNING OR MELTING.
I had burn marks on my hands, and 3 of the shirts actually were SCORCHED. I was truly bamboozled - what had gone wrong? I'd pushed all the same settings that muffin normally uses! But then JT arrives, smells the dead animal, and asks me, "You did reset the washer as well, right? You didn't just hit start. did you?" Completely puzzled I reply, "I just hit the big button." Well, that is INCORRECT ladies and gentlemen - you have to hit the SMALL button first. You see, all I did was activate the DRYER, meaning that all I succeeded in doing was baking the "stank" into my clothes further (oh, and did I mention SCORCH 3 shirts?). And so, 90 minutes after trying the first time, we got the load going AGAIN, this time with perfect pumpkin in charge. I'm happy to report that "Round 2" results were better. :-)
It's been a busy week in the evenings, and tonight won't be much quieter. But hey - no complaints, as a rolling stone gathers no moss!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Highlights According to Mr. Nioman - Bali Part 2...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Muffin Puffin just got back from her dive certification refresher class, and she's just confirmed for me that she's fit as a fiddle and ready to tackle the Big Blue this weekend. She'll be off to Malaysia with Sister Sarah, and since this upcoming trip will be her first dive since Oz in 2002, she felt it prudent to have a refresher course on all the basics. Sarah - I leave her in your very capable hands - take care of my Muffin Puffin!
So tonight I believe I owe you all the remainder of Bali. And so, without further ado, let's get amongst it!
Sunday: "So....what else should we do here?"
First off, let me say it again - Saturday night's sleep was among the best EVER. True, I did get up 7 times to pee, but hey - details...All I'll say is that I woke up feeling fresh as a daisy and STARVING for the free brekkie. But 1 phone call to the desk later, Team Taylor was dining in their villa in the outdoor living area. SWEEEEEEEET! Before and after breakfast, we took a dip in the pool as well, which felt AMAZING. That being said, if the sun's not out, it can actually get (dare I say it) chilly in Bali, as it doesn't have nearly the humidity of Sing Sing. In fact, I saw goose bumps on muffin puffin on more than 1 occassion. But then again, she's a Floridian who's father once wore a sweater for a walk outside in 82 degree weather, so I can't say that I'm too surprised...
Determined to see the rice terraces on this day, we walked out to negotiate with a taxi driver to see the cost. You see, it's a big thing in SE Asia to rent drivers for the day. This is a bloody BRILLIANT concept, as a) you do NOT want to negotiate those roads yourself, b) you can do whatever you want to do, and c) they are very knowledgeable about the area and function almost as tour guides as well. Lucky for us, our new friend Nyoman was right outside of our resort looking for work, and so we struck up a conversation.
We asked him how much to go to the rice terraces, and he asked what else we wanted to see in Bali. When we replied, "Um, what else is there to see here?" (YES - we were THOSE tourists), Nyoman whips out a map and starts RATTLING off the proposed route for a 5 hour journey. He quotes us the private tour for the day for $45 USD all in, and we don't even bother negotiating. I mean seriously - how can you argue with that?
So Nyoman turns out to be a CLASSIC character and a GREAT tour guide. Within 5 minutes we're outside of the city and looking at these AMAZING rice fields - not the terraces, but still huge tracks of land devoted to farming one of the 4 types of rice they cultivate in Bali. And best of all, with temperature this perfect (high 70's, no humidity), we were "windows down, pedal to the sneaker, pump up the volume, blow out the speaker..." - it was GREAT.
Our first stop was the holy spring temple. Again, we had NO IDEA what this was, but we roll up to find this AMAZING Hindu temple in the middle of nowhere (seriously - we are DEEP in the jungle. We are among about 6 Ang Mo's there, and there's this massive pool in the middle where folks are standing under pouring fountains, praying and raising incense above the flow of the water. I wanted to jump in so bad I couldn't stand it, but the thought of hopping into a religious [pool wearing my monkey boxers with a hole in the crotch the size of Nevada just didn't feel like the best way to keep up with cultural relations. So instead we opted for lots of pictures and roaming around the temples.
There is always the CLASSIC sign in front of every Hindu Temple that says basically (yes, this is my paraphrasing):
1. You must be dressed properly. You must wear a sarong (translation - we know NONE of you dress like this, so we're going to keep some lice infested sarongs here and request donations).
2. You must not walk in front of people praying. (this is tricky, because, well, EVERYONE IS PRAYING. Next time I'll bring my pogo stick.)
3. Must NOT enter during their period (which they then ALWAYS put in parenthesis - MENSTRUAL CYCLE, WOMEN ONLY - seriously, THANKS for that - never would have pieced that one together on my own...and good to know I can still enter during my time of the month). And another do they police that one exactly? Shogun, OSC, can I get a "MOOOOOON CUP!!!!!!" shout out?
After the temple, we rolled over to a Bali coffee plantation. This was actually really cool, but in classic tourist fashion, this was the only place where I assumed there would be an admission charge and had asked Nyoman, "Does the $45 USD include admission to the coffee plantation?" He said absolutely, which wasn't a lie considering that IT WAS SOMEONE'S HOME. Locals 1 - Team Taylor 0.
It was a really neat stopover, as we saw this gal's garden, which included just about every fruit known to man. And then we saw a famed creature in the coffee world - the Luwak. If you've seen the "Bucket List," then you know about Kopi Luwak. This is the coffee made from the bean that these little Luwaks eat and then DEUCE OUT. The beans are collected from the stool, "cleaned," and then made into coffee. Which probably makes want to say, "PLEASE tell me the Bull and the Striker didn't drink feces coffee!?!?!?" Oh, YES, baby - 1 cup at $5 a pop - comin' up.
Seriously - this coffee was, well, SLUDGE. It was so thick that you were truly drinking the grounds (and the rich black texture wasn't helping the image). That being said, there's no denying it was strong - 10 seconds after my first sip I was ready to climb Mt. Kota Kinabalu at a sprinter's pace! We also got to try 4 other coffees and teas, ALL of which were better than the Kopi Luwak. But when asked, we of course smiled and said, "This is AMAZING! Best coffee I've ever had!" And in the back of our collective brain you could see JT and I looking at each other going, "I love you, pumpkin, but you HAVE to take the next sip. Drain it, please drain it!"
And so Team Taylor officially crossed off Kopi Luwak (including a viewing of the Luwaks, who were asleep until Nyoman started hissing at them and hitting their cages - PETA would have LOVED it). But THAT, dear friends, was just the beginning of the day's culinary adventures.
As we're driving to the next stop, we pass a fruit stand. In there air is the unmistakable smell of the most famous fruit in SE Asia - THE DURIAN. Now for those of you who don't know, Durian is basically a fruit that smells like an open sewer. It's so potent that it's illegal in public buildings and public transit. I have been planning on trying this ever since my arrival, and this day I decided it was time.
We pulled over to the fruit stand, Nyoman negotiated with the local, and $4 USD later I was holding a spiky Durian. Seriously, you could slice your finger off with the shell of that thing. But then we cracked it open, and inside, there they were...Durian seeds. I had FOUR of these puppies - let me describe the experience.
1. Pick up the Durian seed. It's akin to holding rotten flesh or carcass, except that you feel this might ACTIVELY try to kill you.
2. Smell the seed. The only thing I could compare it to would be putting your head in a toilet bowl after a night at Wild Wings Cafe.
3. Bite the seed. The texture is that of something putrid. I have no other words.
4. Swallow. IF YOU CAN. I was able to. Muffin Puffin, however, almost gagged TWICE. Needless to say the locals were LOVING this, and our driver couldn't STOP laughing. And best of all for him? He got over half the Durian free!
Seriously - I'm glad that's done. It will NEVER be done again...Sophia - the smell of Durian is like perfume? You're out of your mind!
After that, it was the drive to Mt. Batur, the volcano in the center of the Eastern side of the island. This was really cool as well, as the weather was perfect and offered an exquisite view of the blue and green hues of the lake as well as the caldera. Nyoman said that normally it was socked in by this time of day and that we were very lucky, and I'd have to agree.
After that, it was off to the rice terraces, which DID NOT disappoint. True, it wasn't growing season, but just the sheer size of the terraces (I counted 12 levels) was really, really impressive. And then, 5 hours and a host of sights and memories WAY better than expected later, we parted ways with our good buddy Nyoman and strolled into town looking for dinner.
We checked out a few places, but the prices were always ASTRONOMICAL compared to the Boom Boom Room. We were about to make a repeat appearance there when suddenly, down a dark alley by the river, I saw a flickering light (sounds like the opening to "Hotel California", doesn't it?). Then I saw a menu, and then I noticed tables and lamps. These prices were AWESOME ($2 for mains), and 3 minutes later we were seated and beers ordered. The beers came about a minute later, but THEY WERE PIPING HOT. When we told them the beer was warm, they responded, "Yes, sorry - none cold." CLEARLY they weren't beer drinkers and didn't get it, and so we had to explain that beer drinkers like COLD beer. Luckily they had some small bottles cold, but they were SHOCKED at the speed we moved through them (I mean 12 ounces, dude. If I struggled with that I would have expected Owain to get on a plane and BEAT me). All the same, the food was excellent (even if they forgot our order once), and the meal was DIRT CHEAP (6 beers, 3 mains, 1 starter, tax, tip - $30 USD). You gotta love Bali.
After that it was back to the palace, where Team Taylor did something that they have ONLY DONE in Indonesia this year - watched a movie. We rented "Up in The Air," which I thought was good (even though it had virtually nothing in common with the book), and then we capped the evening off with "The Hangover." Dude - that is one SERIOUSLY funny movie. It was then off to sleep, where again I slept like the dead.
Monday - FINALLY: The hot rocks...
So Monday was pretty much a perfect morning. We slept in, had breakfast in our villa, and then went to the resort spa for a 90 minute massage. Jenny went for the traditional, whilst I FINALLY crossed off another of life's to-do's - the Hot Stone Massage, Baby!!! This place was GREAT - relaxing music, the breeze coming off the rice field into this hand carved wooden room, and some GUUUUUUUUUUUUUD tension breakers in the form of an 80 pound lady whose fingers could snap STEEL. When she asked, "How is pressure, sir?" I didn't DARE suggest she go any harder. Consequently, I'm still vertical. And the stones, Ahhhhhhh - so guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud. Mom, you were right - that is pretty spectacular, and I left there pretty darn relaxed (even if a bit marked up from the stones and the heat). We even made time for a cup of Jamu at the end on the balcony of the spa.
It was then into the fray of Bali traffic, where it took us 90 minutes to reach the airport. However, after buying a final bottle of water and some chewing gum (which we had to finish on the plane, of course), we were left with 400 Rupiah (the equivalent of 1 US nickel) to spend, which we deposited in the charity slot (yes, yes, I know - we are SUCH givers).
The flight was smooth and got off on time (FINALLY!), and were touchdown to Wine Connection in 50 minutes - A NEW RECORD! Money, Dan - the Shiraz Malbec is gone, but the Montepulciano is just as guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud.
All in all, it was a SPECTACULAR trip, and EXACTLY what the doctor ordered. I landed in Sing Sing refreshed and really, really happy about the holiday. And now I'm already looking forward to the next one (shocker, I know...)!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Paradise Rediscovered - Another AMAZING weekend in Bali...(Part 1)

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Team Taylor is back from a truly EPIC weekend, and so let's get right to the recap. Actually, WAIT - let's NOT get to the recap yet, let's get to something far more pressing - THE INABILITY OF SINGAPOREAN STARBUCKS BARISTAS TO MAKE A DECENT CUP OF COFFEE!!!!!
Seriously - I know there's an art to it. I've seen enough of those cups made to realize that the folks who work there truly are masters of their craft. The ones at Harbourfront Center, however, aren't artisans. Hell, they aren't even JOURNEYMEN. TWICE I've had to send my coffee back TWO TIMES before walking out - honestly, how is that even possible? Case in point - today's debacle. Muffin Puffin and I walk up, and they instantly recognize the Ang Mo's. "Two grande coffee with Hazelnut, lah?" Pleasantly surprised, I offer a "Yeah, lah" back (Adeline - you would have been so proud - can, can).
So I take my eyes off of them for TWO SECONDS to pay, at which point my coffee is handed to me - A CUP OF BLACK COFFEE FILLED TO THE BRIM. I take a sip, thinking perhaps there's a new Singaporean milk that's invisible, but no - they forgot it. And so I go back up and ask for milk, which they give me. However, when I stir it and take ANOTHER sip, I realize that there's no syrup. So when I go BACK up and ask for syrup, they give me about 57 pumps into the full coffee. Translation - I managed about 8 sips before going into sugar shock. I'm not selling my stock, but MAN was I pissed. I mean, at $4.60 a cup, who wouldn't be? To quote the Wild Card after his "B team facility " post: "Wow, that was cathartic." Anyhoo, I digress...
Friday: Nothin' like a good Sam Taylor meltdown
So I have no lie to tell - Friday was AMAZING. In fact, the whole week had been great. I'd rolled through a shedload of to-do's, and I was feeling fit as a fiddle. We even managed a surprise baby shower for Jac! Check out the photo - I'm really one of the girls! At 4 PM, all I could think was, "now THIS is how you wrap a week and head for vacation." And that's when a red issue reared it's ugly head.
By itself, this wouldn't have been so bad, but finding out the flight was also delayed 3 hours and then arriving at the airport to wait in the check-in line for an HOUR even though we'd already checked in online (JetStar - you really need to work on that one. What, exactly, is the point of the on-line check-in?) started to push Sammy over the edge. I don't know what my problem is, but as you can tell from the Starbucks rant, I've been wired tight enough to pop lately. Needless to say that all the delays, scrambling for Subway (yes, we had it for lunch AND dinner on Friday - Eat Fresh! Watch your back, Jared - I'm a spokeman in the making, albeit with a slightly different promotion: "How to get fat as a damn bear on Subway and LOVE it"), and getting to the gate as the flight closed had me less than thrilled with the evening. It was the 4th consecutive flight that had been delayed for us, and given that the trip to Penang was, well, AWFUL, my happy travel meter was running low.
All of that changed, however, when we landed in Bali. Again - WOW - this place is the JAM. It is dangerously close to breaking into that famed "Top 5" destinations category for the Bull - stayed tuned for end of assignment results in early 2012...
We arrived to find our driver waiting for us. Instantly we were parted with our luggage, we were given cold towels, we were given chilled water, and we were relaxing in a nice SUV for the 1 hour drive to our hotel. The location for this trip was Ubud, famous for its rice terraces and the famed "monkey forest." We arrived at the hotel just before 1 AM, where we were greeted with tea and taken to a RIDICULOUS room. Seriously - Sarah, Lily - we were rockin' it just like the Dream Villas in Seminyak. We sacked out around 2, bloody EXHAUSTED and thankful to be settled for the evening.
Saturday: Rough beginnings lead to EPIC finishes...
Now as you all know, the Bull tends to have trouble sleeping most nights. Friday night was no exception, as I tossed and turned until around 4 AM, at which point I did pass out. By itself, this is no big deal. But when THE JUNGLE AROUND YOU COMES ALIVE AT 6 AM, this becomes more of a problem. Not for Perfect Pumpkin, of course, as she could sleep through A SPACE SHUTTLE LAUNCH. But the Bull was awake at 6. I managed to doze until 7, at which point the cleaning crew arrived and chatted at about 180 decibels. I managed to block that out after about 20 minutes. But then....the construction started.
So there's some kind of building right beside the property that is under construction, and by under construction I mean EVERY SAW KNOW TO MAN CUTTING THROUGH STONE AND STEEL AT THE SAME TIME. Seriously, this would be Tim "the Tool Man" Taylor's biggest fantasy. It even woke Jenny up - what does THAT tell you?
We tried to sleep until about 9:30, but it was apparent that was hopeless. They did bring an AMAZING breakfast to our room (eggs, pineapple-banana pancakes, fresh fruit, fresh juice, bacon, you name it), but I was determined to complain when I was finished. It was at this point that we got the phone call from reception, informing us that they were moving us to another villa. And so, bellies full, they walked us to the complete other side of the resort, this time to an even more picturesque suite, complete with an outside living room, full size fridge, MASSIVE bathroom, private pool, and a bed that would take you 6 weeks to drive across. It was EPIC, and the view of the rice fields from our place was really cool as well. And the best part (Fiona, Kat, Lynda, I hope you're ready)? Each Villa has a name. What was ours? HOUSE OF GAGA. That's right, baby - who's caught in a bad romance? THIS GUY (not really, pumpkin!)....
And so, our spirits lifted, Team Taylor goes to rent bikes for the day's adventure - a 20KM ride to the rice fields. Now, when I told Jenny this, I should have noticed the look in her eyes which said, "I think I'd like to stab you right now." Instead, however, I put the camera on her back, ignored the rain clouds, and hopped on my rusted out 1972 Huffy that they had in stock (deathtraps...I mean, er, bikes were free to rent). We take off and get about 20 feet out the door (dodging traffic the whole time - HOLY @#$% was it terrifying) before Jenny hollers at me and tells me that her bike will shift into harder gears but won't slide back down. Realizing that's less than ideal, we go back and pick up another bike for her. We get about 15 feet out the door when one of her pedals FALLS OFF. And so we go BACK and get a third bike, but this thing is rattling like the Wright Brothers plane at Mach 12. And so, 80 minutes and zero calories burned later, we abandoned the quest for the rice terraces for the day and instead walked the 100 meters in the other direction to the other big draw from Ubud - the Monkey Forest. And it was at this point, ladies and gentlemen, that we experienced a herculean rally.
Seriously - this place was AWESOME (unless you're Paula McHugh). Picture about a billion monkeys ALL AROUND YOU. Picture dudes feeding them and the monkeys being so agressive that they are climb all over anyone with food (we were smart enough not to bring any inside). Picture monkeys fighting and dancing and screeching and standing about 6 inches from you - AMAZING! We were in here well over an hour, and we took about 75,ooo photos. But I gotta tell ya - it was AMAZING. And the craziest thing? The temples in the forest were built in the mid-14th century! Yes, it was wicked cool. I mean, there was even the "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" statue, at which point I had to join in the fray...
After that it was over to a bar for some Bintang (the local brewski). Jenny's convinced that it's nothing but a hangover beer, but I quite like it. We polished a few off before heading back to the palace for a shower (RAINFOREST SHOWER - SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD...clean cheekies) and then heading out for dinner. The selected venue? Wait for it, CP - THE "BOOM BOOM ROOM!" That's right - Ray and Clyde would be so proud. This place was GREAT. We ate food for about 2 hours straight, and I had a tuna steak that almost changed my life. This place sported live music, which in Bali means only 1 option - REGGAE, BABY! Oh yes, we had 6 HARDCORE rastafar's on stage, all with various types of facial hair growth and ALL with the Bob Marley hat. It should be noted that I learned Jenny knows EVERY WORD TO EVERY BOB MARLEY SONG EVER WRITTEN. Seriously - I'm pretty sure she's either a) one of the Wailers or b) originally from Jamaica (cause she looks so local...).
After sitting through 2 GREAT sets by those cats, we finally packed it in and called it at night, at which point I had the GREATEST NIGHT SLEEP OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. In the movie with Honors, Simon says that his best night of sleep ever was in Bali. Whilst not my best night, that Saturday night might very well be in my top 5. And that was good, because MAN did we cover some ground on Sunday. That, however, will have to keep for the next installment, as it's 10:15 and dinner time for the Bull and the Striker.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The calm before the storm (translation - no pineapples in sight)...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Okay, so first off - ANNOUNCEMENT: there will be NO BLOG until Tuesday, 21 June. Why, you ask? Because Team Taylor is bouncing off the island again, this time headin' back to BALI, BABY!!!! Bring on the Bintang and the monkey forest! We're hitting Ubud (up in the mountains and along the rice terraces) this time, and we can't WAIT.
So today was an excellent day in the office, as the Bull rolled through about a billion to-do's. Honestly, I've felt really productive this week (must be all the Vitamin Water), and it's good to see a lot of long-standing to-do's come off the list. Martin, fret not - the ship will be in good hands whilst you're watching the gladiators of the grass court. I did NOT make the gym, on the pretense that a) my legs were tired, b) I would work out in the morning (not looking so good now...), and c) I REALLY needed a G & T. Grimshaw - you would be so proud of this transformation. Now granted, I don't share your love for Gordon's, but hey - baby steps, right?
Dinner was pretty simple, as we made the usual run back to the Japanese super market for some $2 discounted sushi that was SO GUUUUUUUUD...peppy cheekies. 2 hours later I still feel fat as a damn bear, but hey - no complaints. It should be noted that, every time I buy sushi (so about 6 tmes a week), I always ask myself: "Do we need wasabi? (Steve-O style)" Well, I always assume the answer is yes, so I buy a tub of it to go along with the 4 packets of sushi we eat. But then I open the sushi and suddenly remember 2 things (Dave Matthews style): 1. there is wasabi contained in EVERY pack. 2. We never get around to EATING the sushi in the packs, which means we now have about 57 pounds of wasabi in the fridge (which doesn't have much of a shelf life, which means we've got a veritable petry dish in there. Ah, it's just like my old shower on Fairbluff...good times...
And since I won't be around on Sunday, let me say a great big HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to the man, the myth, the legend - Sammie III. I LOVE YOU, DAD! You're the best father a kid could ever hope for, especially a little stool master like me.
And yes, I realize that this has been a profoundly boring blog post from the Bull. However, despite having nothing meaningful, profound, or even interesting to say, I wanted to at least let peeps know that I'll be out of pocket for the next 3 days (4 if you're stateside, as you won't hear from me Friday either) AND say a big Happy Father's Day to Pappa Bear. And think of it this way - at least you didn't hear about any workouts or Doritos consumption (although I did take down a packet at lunch and some more this evening - "Taco" flavor is weak like Ukraine).
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Fret not - I expect plenty a good story to come out of our long weekend in Indonesia!
Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

It's that time again...musings from Asia...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. The Bull logged 10+ miles tonight on one of the coolest nights of the year in Sing Sing (so...87 degrees with 94% humidity - but at least there was a breeze...kind of like the one that comes out of the oven when you open it to put the pizza in), and it felt really good. Granted, it feels like someone's taken a cheese grater to my inner thighs, but hey - at least the nipples aren't bleeding this time!
So it's been awhile since I've worked through an "observation session," and tonight felt like a good time to do it. Below are some of the things that I've noticed are VERY common in this city, and they are all things that just make me go hmmmmmmm...(where's Arsenio Hall when you need him?):
1. "The question list:" Now don't get me wrong, I KNOW that my accent is hard for people to understand. Hell, it's tough for folks back HOME to understand. But why is it that ANYTIME I call to ask for something, I am taken back through the questions that I've ALREADY PROVIDED THE ANSWERS TO? Case in point - Monday night's cab (this happens to me EVERY DAY):
Need a Cab Sammy (NaCS): "Hi, I need a cab from Harbourfront to Evans Road, please."
Dispatcher: "Hello? You need taxi?" (Well, I DID call the TAXI COMPANY, so it's either that or I'm REALLY lonely and need company for the journey).
NaCS: "That's correct - going from Harbourfront to Evans Road."
Dispatcher: "Okay, lah. Taxi. Where you go to, lo?" (IS SHE SERIOUS? EVANS ROAD, LAH!!!!)
NaCS: "Evans Road, please. But I'm at Merrill Lynch Harbourfront now."
Dispatcher: "Where you at now, lo?" (STEAM. FUMING. NO WORDS.)
Dispatcher: "Harbourfront is it?" (I mean seriously - what would you do?)
NaCS: "Yep. I'll be down in the lobby."
Dispatcher: "Where you want to wait. You go to lobby, is it?"
NaCS: "Yes, lah. Lobby."
Dispatcher: "Okay, and you Evans Road?" (OH FOR @#$#'S SAKE!!!!)
NaCS: (through gritted teeth) "Yes. Thank you."
This has happened every time I order tickets, make reservations for dinner (YES, Grimshaw - I actually do that on occassion), call tech support - you name it. Good times.
2. The laugh that removes all oxygen from the room: Now anyone on earth will tell you that I laugh like a hyena. Jenny was so embarassed at "The Expat Wife" that I thought she was going to run away in shame. It's fair to say that I cackle, but I do confirm to Western laughing standards of being loud and exhaling. Asians by and large, however, don't expel air when they laugh. Instead, it's more a series of convulsions that suck in all air in an 11 mile radius, leaving you concerned if you should carry on telling the joke or begin performing the heimlich maneuver. Granted, not all are like this. But for the ones that are - LOOK OUT...and bring your own O2 tank.
3. The total DOMINANCE of the sidewalk: This is the one that's killing me at the moment and will probably see me deported. You see, in the states and in Britain, when you are in a group of 20 and someone is walking the other direction on the sidewalk, you make way. Here, you are noticed, looked at because you are a bizarre Ang Mo with sweat stains in your pits that would make you the talk of the town in a hypercolor t-shirt, and then those walking toward you go right back about their business but DON'T BUDGE. Consequently, you either have to dive out of the way or contort your body in such a fashion that you can slip through the juggernaut. I have actually taken a different approach recently - I am now BODY CHECKING the dude on the end. I have done this probably half a dozen times, and I've observed that either a) they don't BAT AN EYE and keep walking, b) they are startled that they were just touched in Singapore, shake their head like they've been woken from the Matrix, and then keep going, or c) they turn, stare, yell something in Chinese, and then invariably continue their march, bowling over the next cat coming the opposite direction. Perhaps I just need bigger shoulders, but I fully intend to continue this social experiment. Don't worry, mom - I haven't taken out any grannies...yet.
Those are just the 3 on my mind, and given that it's 11:30 I think it's time to call it quits. However, as I know that some of the readership has tired from my incessant running updates, I wanted to let everyone know that I was still keeping up with foreign relations (Top Gun style).
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

I love're perfect...NOW CHANGE!

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Team Taylor took a rest from exercise tonight, but they did log their 3rd straight AFD. Honestly, this is becoming a regular thing...and it's creeping me out.
Today was a GREAT one at work, as the Bull rattled through about 600 to-do's. Now granted, there are a few new additions to the "kerosene" list after their antics in the past few days, but hey - as the only building material around these parts is concrete and steel, they should feel reasonably safe.
Lunch was a true winner - Sakae Sushi. This place, RIGHT BEHIND KFC in Harbourfront, was AWESOME AND SO CHEAP. Jackie - why didn't you find this place vs. Sushi Tei? You could have saved me a million dollars!!!!!
The evening activity took place at The National Library Building, where Muffin Puffin and I went to see the musical "I Love You, You're Perfect - Now Change!" We actually saw this in Charlotte many moons ago, and truth be told we'd forgotten most of the scenes (and ALL of the music) - all we remembered was that we enjoyed it. And I must say - we THOROUGHLY enjoyed it once again.
The show (with a cast of 4 in multiple outfits and lots of different roles) follows the life cycle of a relationship - first date, getting serious, commitment issues, marriage, kids, empty nest, divorce or a long marriage, ending with how do you cope after one of you is gone. It was absolutely HILARIOUS in places, truly tender in others. And whilst I don't remember much of the show from the first time I saw it, I did remember some of the emotions that I felt watching it. Those feelings were present in this one as well, and certainly deeper toward the end as I think Jenny and I can relate so much better to it 5 years into our married lives together.
Dinner tonight was a late one (11 PM start), but no complaints - as that poor bag of Doritos that I started last night was feeling unloved, so we finished him and put him to rest this evening. Farewell, Spicy Nacho. Heeeelllllooooooooo Smokin' BBQ!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Monday, 13 June 2011

From Texas to Taiwan, I present to you - Nancy and John!

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. The Bull achieved a personal victory tonight, as he FINALLY managed to complete a workout in the "A" group without getting lapped. Granted, I finished last in EVERY SINGLE HEAT (boys and girls together - I was truly suckin' the hind teet), but I managed to stay on pace with them for the first time EVER. After 4 weeks off, that was a really good feeling.
The work day was good, and Muffin and I even managed to get out for lunch at Pastamania. I decided to "upsize" my pasta today, thinking that the portions would still be "Asian size" (translation - my cracker ass is STARVING whenever I finish the "extra large" portion of something out here - it's not even a starter by US standards). But oh, no, ladies and gentlemen - they took one look at the Ang Mo's dunlap and proceeded to put enough grease, fat, lard, and heavy cream sauce into that to drown a herd of rhinos. I polished off every last bite...but I had trouble breathing for the next 3 hours. We will NOT be doing that again.
So last night was a great one for the Bull and the Striker, as we got out to Orchard for a long overdue dinner date. As some of you know, there's an American gal (with family from Taiwan) who works with me named Nancy (she's the one responsible for the Jellyfish AND the chicken feet incidents). Well, Nancy's been RAVING about this soup dumpling place called Din Tai Fung, and last night we met her and her husband John there for dinner. LET ME TELL YOU - this place was EPIC.
Picture STACKS and STACKS of dim sum rolling out, with the highlights being a) pork soup dumplings and b) pork soup dumplings with shrimp on top. DUDE - SOOOOOOOOO GUUUUUUUDDDDDDD (peppy cheekies). I seriously ate until I thought I was going to rupture. But I learned a very valuable lesson, as dim sum is sneaky. You see, after we'd completed the first feeding frenzy, I was still starving. So we put in an order for TWENTY MORE dumplings, which came with 6 free dumplings. The result was nothing shy of gluttony, and it was only about 28 seconds after I'd eating the last one that I realized I should have stopped about 10 pieces back. But hey - NO COMPLAINTS. Nancy - you were on the verge of being black-listed from food selection. Now, however, you are TOTALLY back in my good graces.
Tonight's food was less exciting but still tasty - sandwiches and salad back at the palace. And now it's time to read for a bit and call it a night, as the Bull didn't sleep last night due to learning about a film called "The Human Centipede." If you know what this is, then you too are probably still trying to book in twice daily therapy sessions. If you don't know what this is, DO NOT GOOGLE IT. Parents - just trust me on this one - I only have your best interests in mind.
And last but not least - GO MAVS!!!!! Amazing stuff, baby! Good for the league, good for the game.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Weekends = cramming in EVERYTHING wonderful in life in 48 hours...

And a good Sunday afternoon to you all from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. First off - AMAZING NEWS - the Merlion is back to spewing water, baby!!!!! WOO-HOO!!!!! After 3 months of being denied a viewing of the Singapore Landmark during my training runs around the Marina, Muffin Puffin gave me the nudge yesterday and pointed to a foamy, frothy collection of bubbles in the harbor as we neared the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Welcome back, baby! Here's to many more morning runs where there aren't a BILLION tourists blocking my path.
And in other news, the Bull is pleased to report that he's found a plant that can survive his black thumb - Chinese Bamboo. Seriously - we bought one of these plants back in Feb, and I've forgotten to water it about 16,000 times since then. However, despite my horrific parenting, our little collection of stalks has managed to sprout like a weed (no pun intended) and is en route to some day being panda food. Good times.
So this weekend, whilst not yet over, has just been PERFECT. Case in point - I'm sitting here sipping on a Mountain Dew as I type this, something that was NEVER possible in the UK (unless I paid like $600 USD for it at that Japanese Candy Shop). I've been a little grumpy lately (dare I say bordering on frumpiness), and until this weekend I wasn't quite sure why. But then, having experienced a perfect, activity-filled yet relaxing Saturday, it hit me. Simply put, the previous 2 weekends had let me down. Now you all know me well - I love my job and I do work hard (Work peeps - let's keep the laughter to a minimum, shall we...), but I don't think anyone will disagree with the statement that Team Taylor lives for weekend travel and activities. The previous 2 weekends (Sundown 1/2 and Penang) were, quite frankly, disappointments. Granted, I had a blast both weekends, but that was largely due to have the best wife on the planet who kept me laughing and smiling the entire time. Truth be told, as long as I've got her - we'll have fun anywhere. And since I had her AND a host of activities yesterday, Four Leaf is back from the edge and smiling as much as ever.
The day started at 10 AM (I know, right? SHOCKINGLY EARLY!) with brekkie at Boomerang. That place has become a weekend staple. In fact, I told Jenny: "This place is the first thing I've decided I'll truly miss when we leave Singapore." However, she then reminded me of unlimited refills and thick country bacon at OPH, at which point my love for Boomerang flickered a little. that being said, it's still a GREAT place.
We then wandered over to the featured event of the day - the Grand Theater at Marina Bay for a performance of Cirque Eloize's "i-D." Cirque Eloize is Canada's national "Cirque" troop, and this thing was OFF THE CHAIN. Seriously - picture Mystere and La Nouba rolled together. Mom, there was this AMAZING sequence at the end with a trampoline. It totally reminded me of La Nouba and the little devil dude running up the side of the building and then stepping through the teeny little box hole in the wall. In 2 words: EXTRA AWESOME.
The set-up is cool as well, as the lobby there is shared space with the Sands Theater, which houses their marquee show - the Lion King. Based permanently in Singapore, we're anxious to watch this one as soon as possible as well.
After the show, we did the only thing 2 sensible foreigners in proper footwear SHOULD do on a rainy day in Sing Sing - FINALLY HIT THE CASINO, BABY!!!!!!!! And I gotta tell ya - it did NOT disappoint.
Yesterday was just "recon" for future trips, and here are my observations:
1. It really does feel like Vegas. PACKED casino, TONS of action, you can drink on the casino floor, people smoking, good music.
2. Chinese LOVE to gamble. We are talking people are 5 deep at the 7 Up Baccarat table.
3. Craps is NOWHERE to be found, but there's enough roulette to make you think the game was invented in Southeast Asia (Wild Card, Hitman - this is THE PLACE for Gaurav to test his theory...and get CLEANED OUT).
4. Miller - I saw it and I couldn't believe it: "Come ooooooooon......MONKEY!!!!!" I was spellbound.
5. There is no Texas Tea, but there certainly is a good replacement - Lucky Luigi's Pizzeria! This 5 cent slot machine was HILARIOUS - Muffin even won the "pizza pepperoni pick 'em" combo! I mean, tell me she's not perfect.
On the way home, I stopped to hug Singa, the mascot for the "Singapore Kindness Movement." That's right - they have a KINDNESS MOVEMENT here. That being said, aside from these 4 rather frightening and cheap plastic lions in a row on the promenade, I've never seen another mention of the Kindness Movement. Perhaps all the gang war and blood shed just takes place in that 1 section (PARENTS - I AM KIDDING. There are no gangs and no blood shed in Singapore - no matter WHAT Uncle Scotty says...).
We then did the unthinkable for a Friday evening - went for a run! Muffin logged 4 and I logged 7, and I didn't have any gas in the tank when that was over. I've got another 1/2 marathon in 2 weeks, and I'm pretty sure that's NOT going to go as well as the previous one. Oh well, considering that it's a trail run, I'll be happy with 3 hours.
After that, we continued with festivities by doing one of the things that we do best (just ask Grimshaw) - knocking a few back. We started by consuming a prized gift from the Shogun himself, smuggled into the country in checked luggage from the land of the rising sun. That's right, Brewmaster - last night we rocked the Shonan Beer! Oh man, it was EPIC. Thanks for that! We'd been saving it for a special occassion, and for some reason last night just seemed to fit the bill.
After that we wanted over to JT's newest discovery - a bar RIGHT BY OUR HOUSE that sells Archipelago!!!! And so we managed last call at a happy hour before rocking over to Bella Pasta for some squid ink and pesto pastas, as well as a GREAT bottle of Shiraz and some gnocchi (for a starter - not desert). It was then back to the house for some episodes of Modern Family which, I'm relatively certain, is the funniest show in the history of television.
Today's been a wee bit quieter, with us doing some grocery shopping, hair cutting (back at the "Way of the Samurai" Salon), and eating at this great sandwich shop called O'Brien's. We're now researching our 5 year anniversary trip - it's less than a month away, so we've gotta get crackin'!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Friday, 10 June 2011

Recapping the Reunion - Hitman and Wild Card in the Sing...

And a good evening to you all from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. It should be noted that, as I type this, my lovely wife is KNOCKING BACK BOOZE in the office, as they are hosting "finance drinks" IN THE CUBE FARM. I find this fascinating, especially since about .000001% of Asians drink alcohol. But then again, there are several Kiwis, Aussies, Brits, and Americans in that crowd. Ahhhh, now it all makes sense...
So I realize I've been radio silent (to quote the Hairless Wonder) for the past week, but I have a good excuse - WILD CARD AND HITMAN WERE IN TOWN! Seriously, this week has felt like any ole' integration week, complete with early mornings, late nights, and a LOT of beer. That being said, a) it was a blast, and b) all my old Transition peeps would be REALLY proud of the amount of expenses I was able to deflect. :-)
The guys showed up in the office on Tuesday looking none the worse for wear after 2 full days in transit and a 1 AM arrival in Sing Sing. Deets is now sporting the new "I'm a spiritual man now with a Marine buzz cut" look, which of course did nothing but make him appear EVEN HOTTER to the women of Southeast Asia. Seriously - we should have held a bloody autograph session for the guy.
Dinner that night was Brotzeit, which is a German place that features Paulaner on draft (it's actually brewed at a satellite facility in Singapore). In 4 words: SOOOOOOOOOO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD....peppy cheekies.
It should also be noted that Martin's leadership team arrived on this day (my peers), and they were a hoot. In the team meeting I did find it hilarious that I was the token American in a room with a South African, 2 Singaporeans, 4 Indians, 1 Japanese, 1 Filipino, and 1 Indonesian. You gotta admit - that's a pretty cool feeling when that's your staff meeting.
On Wednesday we worked like sweaty Columbian coffee donkeys, discussing every Shared Services topic under the sun until calling it quits at 8 PM to roll over to the Singapore Flyer and a restaurant called "Seafood Paradise." I gotta admit, it was guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud, and I even rocked some chili crab and black pepper crab for the first time (chili crab is the national dish). All of it was WICKED tasty, but the highlight of the night was the 15 minute verbal war between me and Wildcard. You see, at some point, Deets launched into another one of his "Barry's destroying everything that is America and will single-handedly eliminate our company, cause World War III, and destroy our way of life, leaving us all in the poor house" speeches, and I simply had to respond. During this whole conversation, NO ONE at the table said a word except us, and when I said, "Well, you're an idiot," you could have heard a pin drop. It was classic, as I'm pretty sure the Indian folks at the table had never heard someone say that to their BOSS'S BOSS. But since Wild Card and I are boys and go way back, we continued on without missing a beat. We also managed a nightcap at some fake Irish Bar before we were kicked out at 11 PM (I mean hey, it's late by bar standards in Sing Sing).
On Thursday I got to live a dream - I SPOKE AT A TELEPRESENCE! That's right, baby - Sammy the Bull on screen, broadcast live across 10 locations, just blabbing about ANYTHING. It was awesome - I was drunk with power. We were supposed to give fun facts about ourselves, and I said that I'd been to all 50 states (which I thought was cool, right?). Oh no, I was EASILY beaten.
This guy Mani gets up there, and he says, "Hi, my name's Mani - payroll in India. My fun fact is that I was kidnapped at knife point once...but then the kidnappers realized they had the wrong person so they kicked me out of the car and gave me money for a taxi home." ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?!?!?! That guy went SECOND out of 8 - how are any of the rest of us gonna top that?
Looking back, there were some excellent quotes from the leadership team from the week:
1. "In Japan, we don't put wasabi on our Kit Kats."
2. "You should always go for the spicy balls. I love them."
3. "I do love wearing women's underwear and I'm resigning."
4. I think this will be really hard, but if you're ready I think I can take more."
Like I said - a GREAT crew.
On Thursday night Muffin and I went out with Wild Card and Hitman for a final dinner at Red Dot. Steve - they had green beer!!!! I'm tellin' ya, man - it WILL be there next time we go - book it.
Fellas - it was a great week, and it was really, really good to see you both. Safe travels to the UK - DRINK A TIMMY TAYLOR FOR ME!!!!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Monday, 6 June 2011

Light on activities, HEAVY on GREAT slogans - Team Taylor visits Penang...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Okay, no 2 ways about it - we've got a LOT to cover and it's already 10:16 in the PM here (time for Los Prospectivos), so let's get cracking with the magic, the mystery, the misadventure that was...Penang.
Friday: This is why you DON'T go to bars in Singapore
So Friday the Bull knocks off word at the UNTHINKABLY early hour of 5:30 PM, shorts on, pit-stained t-shirt in tow, and heads to Harry's Bar and Grill to wait for Muffin Puffin (who's busy reconciling actuals to forecast - yep, it's every bit as exciting as it sounds on a Friday afternoon). I roll into the bar, order a pint of HPL (that's "Harry's Premium Lager" in case you're curious, and it's really anything but premium - except in price), open up my fake lonelyplanet on Malaysia, and start reading. Now to me, this is a clear signal to other patrons: "I like booze and I like books. I do NOT like talking to people." However, some folks have trouble interpreting signs like these, and soon I have a fella...let's call him, I don't know...Side Show Bob - ready to chat.
Side Show Bob starts out talking to me about innocuous things like "am a traveling in Singapore," and "life here is good - the taxes are great," but as I'm sipping on my beer he's knocking back double (make that triple - you should have seen these pours) gin & tonics (hold the tonic), and soon the conversation changes a bit. Side Show Bob is a little rowdier (which means I can't under stand a DAMN WORD his Scottish ass is saying - WOW), and he begins making a few veiled references to some of the ethnicities around us. I dismiss this, thinking perhaps he's trying to "relate to me" or something. And besides, Muffin has no phone and knows this is where I will be, so I can't really go anywhere.
JT soon arrives, we have a beer, and then Side Show Bob's companion (his wife) steps out for a cigarette. THAT, folks, is when things get interesting.
Side Show Bob (SSB): "Yeah, Singapore's nice, but South Africa was better."
Passing Time Sammy (PTS): "Oh, wow - you lived in South Africa. Amazing."
SSB: "Yeah, I lived there until I got thrown out by all the n%^&*$%."
PTS: (Looks at muffin, doesn't speak. I mean really - what is there to say?)
SSB: "Yeah, I have a wife down there and 2 kids. She's a n@#$#@, too. But I don't tell my wife here. Don't you tell her either."
PTS: (looks at Jenny again, contemplates screaming "FIRE!" to get away from this cat)
SSB: "Ah, here she comes again. Don't talk about my wife in South Africa. I had a good business down there, damn it!"
(pause while Singapore wife arrives)
SSB: "Ah, hi, darlin'. You want another drink?"
So here's the kicker - back when Side Show Bob was normal, we'd agreed to split a cab with him. And now we wanted away from this monster, but the only problem was that we'd waiting too long to join the queue, which meant that we needed his pre-booked taxi to make it to the airport on time. And how civilized was that ride? Let's recap:
1. Side Show Bob starts horse-cussing the driver the second we get in.
2. The driver is Muslim, and Side Show Bob keeps screaming, "Driver! Give me your @#%@in' helmet!! I need it!"
3. Our poor driver is going as fast as he can so that he can pitch the infidels out of his car.
4. We arrive and sprint into the Terminal as fast as we can (Side Show Bob had already offered to pay for the ride, as it was on his way).
Scarred for life, slightly sweaty, and still happy to be alive, we check in at Air Asia, where we're told the flight's delayed an hour. That means that we don't arrive in Penang until 1 AM, at which point the airport transfer guy gives us an ear about how he's been waiting 2 hours. HEY GENIUS! WE'RE ONLY AN HOUR LATE AND THERE'S THIS THING CALLED THE INTERNET! IT TELLS YOU WHEN FLIGHTS ARE DELAYED AND EVERYTHING!
And so, still reeling from the evening, Team Taylor did find solace in one of the most comfortable beds this side of the Prime Meridian.
Saturday: Food stalls, downpours, and...well, not much else
Team Taylor rose on Saturday about 10, skipping the shower (CP - I know you're shocked) and heading out into a BLISTERINGLY HOT late morning. The mission was Penang Street, where apparently there are more food stalls than grains of sand on the beach. And sure enough, 20 minutes later, we'd arrived at Penang Street - only that wasn't the Penange Street we wanted. We wanted "Jln Penang," which is "Penang ROAD." I had visions of a mall food court with Sarah Smith - that's all I'm sayin'...
And so we walk BACK to the hotel and over to Penang ROAD, where we learn something very interesting about Penang - THERE ARE NO RESTAURANTS ON THE ISLAND. Instead, you have food stalls with some plastic chairs and tables, and that's how you rock it. And so Team Taylor rocks up to this one joint, the ONLY Ang Mo's in about a 600 mile radius, and starts knockin' back some mee goreng and fresh fruit juice (Speaking of juice, it was EPIC in Penang - we tried watermelon, lime, apple, orange, honey dew, star fruit, sugar cane, and mango during the course of the weekend - all AMAZING). After that, however, the skies went gray and the Heavens OPENED. We didn't panic, however - all we needed to do was catch the 101 or 130 bus to Penang Hill, at which point we would find a land flowing with milk and honey. And so we hailed bus 101, and he said:
Driver: "No, no - you want bus 201."
Shocked Sammy: "But lonelyplanet says 101."
Driver: "Is wrong."
And so bus 201 pulls up.
Driver: "No, no - you want bus 202. That will go there."
Confused Sammy: "But the other driver said I wanted 201."
Driver: "Is wrong. You want 202."
And so bus 202 pulls up (there's been a couple knocking back beer watching us the WHOLE time)
Driver: "No, no - you want bus 203. That will go there." (I KID YOU NOT - THIS REALLY HAPPENED).
Frustrated Sammy: "Can we just ride this bus as far as it goes?"
Driver: "I no go there. You want 203. Definitely 203."
And so bus 203 pulls up (we've been standing on asphalt in 300 degree heat for 45 minutes at this point):
Driver: "No, no. Is wrong. You want bus 63." (63?!?!?! WHERE THE HELL DID THAT NUMBER COME FROM!?!?!?!?)
And so I storm off and hail a taxi.
Relieved Sammy: "Penang Hill."
Taxi driver: "No."
Taxi driver: "I no go there."
The Bull: "Yeah, I got that part. Why?"
Taxi Driver: "No go." (Bull slams the door as hard as he can - old man cusses him as he drives away. Bull contemplates bird but is in a foreign country and has heard the jails are less than pleasant.)
And so we walk BACK to the hotel, where we find a cabbie:
The Bull: "Penang Hill."
Driver: "30 ringit."
The Bull: "We'll just use the meter."
Driver: "No meter. Just fixed price."
The Bull: "It says ON YOUR CAR that the meter MUST be used."
Driver: "Is not true."
Driver: "Only law in KL. Here no law." (AIN'T THAT THE TRUTH)
And so, 45 minutes and $10 USD later, we show up at Penang Hill, only to see it COVERED in cloud. So what do we do instead? WALK 2 MILES to visit the Lok Sei Temple. And THAT, dear friends, was AMAZING.
Seriously - this was one of the coolest temples we've ever visited, and this was EASILY the most impressive thing in Penang. It went on and on, and the airwork and craftsmanship was EXTRA AWESOME. We spent a good 2 hours here - I even did the Buddhist "kill your feet with rocks" thing. In a word - OUCH. Oh, and we even took the "highest incline lift to a Buddha in Malaysia." I mean seriously - HOW MANY SUPERLATIVES DO YOU NEED TO GET CREDIT FOR SOMETHING? And in case anyone is curious - the ride took about 11 seconds and could have been walked in probably 3 minutes - good times...
And on the way back down, I had a GREAT shopping experience. So I've been questing after a knockoff Heineken shirt for some time, and on the way down from the temple a shopkeeper yelled at me: "shirts! 3 for 10!" Now we are talking TEN RINGIT, which is $3 USD. That means each shirt is a buck. So I rock up and pick out 3 of them. I take out a 10, and she says, "135." I look at her like she's from Mars.
The Bull: "You tell me 3 for 10."
Spiteful Lying Shopkeeper (SLS): "No, not those 3. Others are 3 for 10."
The Bull: "Just these 3?"
SLS: "Feel the quality."
The Bull: "I don't CARE about the quality. I want cheap. I give you 10."
SLS: "Okay, for you 120."
So I try to give her back the shirts, but she doesn't like that.
SLS: "Okay, 105."
The Bull: "3 for 10."
SLS: "Give me your best price."
The Bull: "I just did. 3 for 10." (hands back the shirts)
SLS: "Okay, 80." (Bull keeps walking) "Okay 60!" (Bull keeps walking) "Okay 40!"
But alas - she couldn't get to the # I needed, and so the search continues.
After that it was back to the city, where we tried Anchor beer and Jaz beer, both local and both decent. We went went in search of a sit down dinner, but there was NONE to be found. And so we found another street vendor for Indian, where we KILLED some DELICIOUS food. It was then back to bed, where we watched the first half of the brilliantly conceived film "Anaconda" - what a piece of double donkey trash (Terrier - that was for you). But hey, they did have robes for the guests, and so I had to take advantage of that. The name's Hef. But you can call me Hugh.
Sunday: Some GREAT one-liners
So I woke up Sunday and cracked open the newspaper. What was the headline?
I don't know what bothers me more - the fact that there actually IS an obedient wives club, or the fact that bullshit like that makes front page news. Really? REALLY?
The activity of the day (after another food stall pig out) was Penang Hill (take 2). This, ladies and gentlemen, was a COMPLETE exercise in futility. It's getting late and it's not worth the energy expended on key strokes, so let me sum up:
1. You arrive and "queue" with 4 million of your closest friends. I say "queue" because you actually just pile toward an opening without any discernable order, children screaming, hairy men sweating, and plenty of people cutting you off.
2. You wait in line 40 minutes to pay $10 US a person for the "thrilling funicular," which happens to break down just before you get on (EXACTLY what you want before a ride up a 3500 foot hill).
3. You pile on and ride to the top of this hill. You've now waited over an hour total (plus the 45 minute drive there), and the ride lasts 4 minutes and 55 seconds.
4. You arrive at the top and realize THERE'S NOTHING THERE. You look out a viewpoint shrouded in cloud, over pay for a juice, walk past a mosque and temple you can't go in, and then wander toward a hotel that's closed permanently. And THAT'S IT. You've now been to the top of the island. And your reward? GETTING BACK IN LINE TO TAKE THE DAMN TRAIN BACK DOWN.
5. We spent a total of 4 HOURS in line and transit, all for a grand total of 29 minutes on the hill. SERIOUSLY - someone shoot me in the face with an elephant gun.
6. It was then back to catch a bus to the hotel, which we did manage. And en route, we saw the GREATEST education sign ever. We pass a primary school, and in HUGE rainbow letters a sign reads:
Really - WTH is that all about. I couldn't stop laughing. Hell, I'm STILL laughing.
It was then a stop at the food gallery before rolling back to the hotel, where we caught a cab 3 hours before the flight on the assumption that traffic would be heavy. We actually got to the airport in about 30 minutes, which is really a miracle considering the traffic in Penang (among the worst I've ever experienced - it's like being in the Delta with Dingbat except in the center of Cairo with drivers from Delhi...yeah, that pretty much sums it up).
But the final highlight was a sign in the bathroom at the airport. I'm not even gonna type it - just check the picture.
And so there you have it - Penang in a nutshell. Honestly, I was less than impressed, and I would say skip this destination. Jenny and I had a GREAT time - no doubt about that. However, we had a great time because we love being together and getting into foolishness. Honestly, this has been the weakest of our destinations so far, and I can't imagine that any place will fall below it (knock on wood). That being said, the food was good, the temple AMAZING (there were about 10 BILLION turtles there - SO COOL!), and parts of the colonial area and Chinatown had some very cool architecture. All in all, interesting, but not worth a return.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny