Monday, August 31, 2009

Singapore - Back Again

We had the most enjoyable time in Phuket, and equally memorable for David to spend his birthday fishing and snorkeling - what a blast. We are blessed to be able to spend another 2 weeks in Singapore before we fly back. Still there are a few things we wanted to do in Singapore yet.

A nice afternoon at Nanyang Technological University....

Lunch with the President - Dr. Su Guaning was most gracious and kind to host a special luncheon. He pampered us with a fabulous 5 course meal at the President's Lodge located on the beautiful grounds of Nanyang Technological University. I met Dr. Su at a conference in Salzburg, Austria in 2008. He arranged for my teaching engagement at Xiamen University. Thank you Dr. Su!


Under Dr. Su's leadership, NTU has become a highly-ranked university around the world.


As Assistant Director of Corporate Communications, Michelle made sure our luncheon visit with Dr. Su went without a hitch. Thank you Michelle!


After lunch, we visited my cousin Professor Koh Soo Ngee, Associate Chair of the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at NTU. I have not seen Soo Ngee for well over 25 years and so this re-connection was especially meaningful. Since he was older, it was natural that he associated more with my older siblings but nevertheless, he set a great example for me the importance of higher education. I believe he was the first in our immediate families to have received a Ph.D.


Pool get-together with The Benitezs. Charlotte and her girls live in Seattle - they are visiting familiy (parents/grandparents) who lives in Singapore. We have know Charlotte and Kiko when we lived in Madison - it was so good to catch up in Singapore!!!


At the Singapore Turf Club Winner Circle - no we were not there to place bets. As you may know, Hannah loves horses. My sister Esther was able to arrange for a private tour of this facility.


Control Room - look at the myriad of computer screens - very high tech - we were able to access this secured area during a non-racing day but importantly because of Mr. Murthu.


Privileged access - the VIP area - Mr. Murthu was so generous with his time. He also presented us a number of Singapore Turf Club souvenirs too.


Some of you may be aware that I am the youngest and have 4 sisters and 2 brothers. So imagine growing up in a 800 square feet apartment - well shown above is the apartment I grew up. Because of a government upgrading housing scheme (this apartment was scheduled to be torn down and rebuild), my parents were offered alternative housing - a newer apartment nearby and with some financial compensation. But later, because of the unforeseen economic downturn in 2008, the government decided to renovate the apartments and offer them as rentals. This Russian lady, a student studying at Singapore Management University, now lives in the apartment. So in one way, I am glad the apartment is preserved but on the other hand, it is surreal to know that these apartments are now occupied by her and other foreign students.



My eldest sister Rose was so kind to organize a belated birthday get-together for David after our Phuket trip - shown here with his grandfather.


video
Receiving a birthday gift.......



ION Orchard is the latest shopping mall right in the heart of Orchard Road - the shops are great but only to window shop - who can afford these prices! We shop at Goodwill and Kiwanis! In the basement of the mall is a food court where the top 50 food vendors/hawkers are assembled serving fabulous local delights.


video
Japanese deep-fried appetizers....


video
Gerda and David are roti-prata fans - check out the video of the hawker preparing Roti-Prata......


Still shot of the Prata man in action - basically dole stretched and flattened and then cooked over a hot plate then served with Indian curry.....


This artifact was for sale at a National Geographic retail store in Vivo City Shopping Mall earlier and now guards the food court in ION.


Saying good-bye to my parents....

video
David helping his Grandfather.....


video
Gerda, Hannah and David love the shrimp dumplings that my Dad makes. This was our last meal at their home before heading home.


Three generations - saying good-bye to my Dad.....


All packed and ready to go - our friend Pastor Peter Chan came at 4:15 am in the midst of a heavy downpour to transport us to the airport - a great example of servant leadership.....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

August 27 - A Special Day for my David

David turns 11 today - what a blessed day - I remember his birth back in 1998. Shortly after his birth, I started my Ph.D program and till this day, he is my Ph.D baby. What was I thinking!!!


My good-natured boy!


Always thoughtful and cool at the same time.


Snorkeling in Phuket.


He bargained hard for those cool shades in Phuket.


Without our prompting, the hotel manager presented David with a complimentary birthday cake. What a nice touch - we will come back again.....


video
Our family tradition - singing Happy Birthday and presenting gifts to David in bed....


video
More gifts.....


The boy and his cars - I bought the tiger print in Hangzhou - David is a tiger in the Chinese Zodiac.


I know what you are thinking - "5 more years and I will be able to drive"....


video
Always animated and fun to be around...


The birthday boy is thrilled with the present - thanks to Ashley and Stacy, his cousins - they have good taste. Rose and Tay had us over at their home to celebrate David's belated birthday.

Phuket, Thailand

Here we come - we are so looking forward to this - for me this feels like a real vacation. While we loved Xiamen, it was 'work'-related. In Phuket, I have no other obligations except to rest and rejuvenate. But really, the whole summer has been great......


Small islands sprinkled throughout the region on the way to Phuket, Thailand - we took Tiger Airways - they had a promotion - 16 cents per person - yes this is not a misprint, though airline taxes were high - $125 per person in Singapore dollars.


video
We booked a tour package where the room, breakfast and round-trip airport transportation were included - we went during monsoon season as costs were affordable.


It suited us just fine to come during the monsoon season - as you can tell, the beach is not crowded at all....


The sand here rivals that found on Lake Michigan - wide open beach!


video
We were thrilled....


First evening at the beach - it was so refreshing


video
Always finding things - guess what David found this time...


You can tell we were glad to be here....


I love this picture of daughter and Mom...


Perfect sunset on our first day at Phuket. We were told it rained all weekend before we came.


video
Dinner by the beach - it was around dusk - it was perfect temperatures with constant sea breezes and good Thai food...


Thai Green Chicken Curry.


Thai Pork Stir-fry with Green Beans.


Nice hotel lobby - so typical and very Thai - we loved it at first sight....


Fit for royalty...


Where breakfast was served....


video
Lunch by the Pool Restaurant.....


Thai Set Lunch - Green Shrimp Curry by the Pool Restaurant.


They are really glad to be here - as you can tell from their genuine smiles.


The 'regular' pool - the other one snakes around the hotel - cleverly designed, see below.


This pool snakes around several buildings - the first floor hotel rooms can access the pool from their bedroom. There is also a private balcony area with pool chairs for relaxation - you don't have far to go to enjoy the pool.


Another view - these rooms are appropriately called the Pool access rooms.....



Like fish to water....


The watering tower....


King David's throne/bed.....


Another interesting design - this time in the bathroom where one can access from the bedroom....


The next day, after breakfast, we decided to do some surfing....




Learning to surf for the first time - now I have great respect for surfers on 10 foot waves....


video
As the video shows, I didn't make good progress but that's ok since I had fun....


After surfing, we relaxed a bit more in the pool and later did some shopping in around town - there were jeepneys everywhere...


Almost like a convertible......


video
The Prata lady - this snack/food originates I believe from India and is very common in Singapore - surprise to see a Thai vendor preparing this snack by the roadsde.....


On the third day, together with two Aussies, we chartered a private boat to take us deep-sea fishing and snorkeling...


video
Gerda starting out detailing our fishing and snorkeling expedition....


We first bumped into them in Singapore at the airport - later on the streets of Phuket - and together chartered a boat to go deep-sea fishing and snorkeling. These guys are high-energy to say the least....


Our young skipper...


Relaxing and enjoying the breeze before the big strike....


The Big Strike - I caught three big ones on a single line.....


video
Live action - see video...


video
More actions....


video
And then some....


So this is not another fish story - proof of my catch....


The Skipper got one....


These smaller fishes eat anything - fried chicken, watermelon, and anything edible you throw at them and then see them in a eating frenzy.....


Lunch break - David thinking about feeding the little fishes with some of his leftover chicken drumstick and fried rice.


video
Using his toes to feed the little fishes...


video
Hannah starting a feeding frenzy....


video
Dinner and a show - I meant lunch and a show - he is a man of many talents - what do you think he is going to do?


We docked at this island for a break - the water reminded me of those in the Caribbean.


video
Live action of our snorkeling....


Snorkeling - the water was clear and we could see the bottom quite clearly.....


Dinner is taken care of tonight.....


Fruits of our labor - I meant our catch of the day - a local restaurant vendor took our 'loot' and prepared several dishes - shown here is Spicy Red Curry with Lemongrass.


Deep fried fish steaks Thai style.


Lime flavored Steamed Fish.


We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Phuket - we will come back again - to the same hotel and do the same activities - maybe not the deep-sea fishing since the waters were choppy. Also we were sun-burned - so our Vitamin D quota for the year is reached.....


This photo pretty much explained our conditions at the end of a three fun-filled days in Phuket.....