Monthly Archives: March 2013

Weekend in Sentosa

Me at the Sentosa Hawker

Me at the Sentosa Hawker

 

Me and the dogs

Me and the dogs

 

The doggies having fun!

The doggies having fun!

 

One of the food stalls at the Hawker

One of the food stalls at the Hawker

 

Two of the dogs.. the other was asleep

Two of the dogs.. the other was asleep

 

Harassing poor Kramer as he eats

Harassing poor Kramer as he eats

 

Tariq playing "Cesar"

Tariq playing “Cesar”

This weekend we spent the weekend dog sitting in Sentosa.  In my opinion, Sentosa is similar to Key Biscayne in Miami.  It is a little island off the mainland and you have to cross a small bridge to get there.  Once there, you’ll find Universal Studios, upscale condos, hotels, and beaches.  To live there is the same as living in Key Biscayne… It’s expensive but worth it because you have everything you need and it’s really pretty.  We love going to Sentosa because it feels like a mini vacation for us.  So, Tom and Maryanne went on a mini vacation themselves and we agreed to watch their two dogs at their house in Sentosa.  We brought Lobo over and spent a weekend with the DOGS!

We ate at a “Cuban” place for lunch.  It’s called Paradiso… Cuban it’s not.  The only Cuban thing on the menu is their Cuban sandwich, which sounds like a media noche.  I don’t know if it’s good.  I didn’t try it, but I may have to come back just to find out.

We also went to the only Hawker in Sentosa.  Hawkers are typically these open-aired food markets all around the city where you can get really cheap local food (an entire meal will cost you max $3.00).  It’s kind of like a food court, but outside.  There are a bunch of stalls with different food options.  Some are yummy, some are scary.  The smells when you walk by can sometimes make you nauseated because it’s so many smells under one roof (you have fish, pork, smelly fruit) and you’re outside, so it’s also super hot.  Rather than open up your appetite, some of the smells combined with the heat makes you forget you were hungry.

Luckily, they post restaurant ratings on the outside of each stall.  I have tried to make it a point to not eat at anything that does not have an “A” rating.  There’s just something about an open aired restaurant, with bad smells, and with a “B” or “C” rating that makes me go HMMMM.

Anyhow, the hawker in Sentosa is a bit different.  This Hawker is air conditioned, for starters.  It’s right across from Universal Studios  so it is catered to a more tourist crowd.  The menus and the description of food are in English (which in the neighborhood ones, you are stuck playing a guessing game, if they don’t have pictures).  We decided to give it a try since we were there.  All I can say is that I want to go back every weekend.  We ate something called Prawn Mee.  It’s basically a soup, with veggies, shrimps, noodles, a hard boiled egg, and a curry like paste.  It was so delicious!

For dessert, we got really adventurous!! We ate this thing called Penang Chendol.  It is the weirdest thing I have ever seen or eaten, but surprisingly it was really good!  It is super sweet and it had coconut sugar, coconut milk, worm like jellies, and ready for this….. Red kidney beans on the top!! Like I said, it sounds and looks super weird but it was actually really really good.  IMG_00000026Here’s a few pictures.

The Life of a Dog in Singapore

lobo in laplobo lap 2 lobo lap 3I have written a lot of posts on Lobo’s experience in Singapore and how different this country feels for all of us, but I think the most confusing thing for the Lobo has to be that he now has to ride in taxis!!

In order to get a dog anywhere in Singapore, you either have to own a car (which costs $100,000 to just get a permit to buy one) or take a taxi.

Taxi drivers are not very keen on taking a dog in their car, so it is always an adventure to find a taxi driver who will be willing to transport our large wolf.  When you call ahead to order a cab, you have to tell them in advance that you have a large dog on a leash and many times it will take up to 45 minutes for the dispatch lady to find you a taxi who is willing to come, as a result of this.  I have found ways to beat the system and usually tell the dispatch lady that I have a medium-to-large dog (hey it’s up to interpretation whether he is large, x-large, or medium).  This little tactic usually cuts our waiting time in half.

Since this is such a difficult process, we have gotten Lobo trained to sit still between Tariq’s lap, so that he is quiet and non threatening to the taxi driver, as the primary reason why they don’t like to transport large dogs is because they are afraid of large dogs.  So, Lobo, being the great dog that he is, has learned his taxi stance.  Here’s a few pictures.  In addition, I take a lint brush with me everywhere to make sure that I can wipe off all of his hairs that he loses while he’s in the taxi, so that the taxi driver’s experience with a large dog is a positive one. 🙂

Date Night in Chinatown

squidSo, tonight we decided to venture out and go to Chinatown in search of some nice pillows and other house decoratives.  In order to get there, we had to take one straight bus which took us about 45 minutes (even though Chinatown is really only about 15 minutes from where we live).  We got there and many of the little shops that I had intended to go visit were closed, so what does one do when in Singapore and there’s nothing else to do?? You got it!! You EAT!!!

We went to this delicious restaurant… From the outside, it didn’t look like much and probably if it was in the states, I would have thought it was serving some cucarachas, but when we got inside, it was super cute and the food was scrumptious! We ate squid with pepper (looked weird but tasted good).. looked similar the one posted.  We also ate some delicious green vegetables that were soaked in garlic and we had some seafood fried rice.  All in all, it was a good place and we will definitely repeat and take more pictures so that you guys can see what it looks like.

buddha temple

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

outside buddha temple

Outside of Buddha Temple–look closely you can see a man with incense in his hands praying

chinese men game

Chinese men playing game in the park

inside buddha temple

Inside of temple

Here are some pictures of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which is one of the signature temples in Chinatown.  There’s also a picture of some Chinese men playing a game (they get together at this park and play a game on the weekends)–looks just like the Cuban viejos playing dominoes in El Parque Domino in Miami, so in a strange way, it always reminds me of home.

A Rip Off Here a Rip Off There—The Not So Sunny Side of Singapore

So today’s entry might sound a bit negative compared to all my other entries, but I believe in showing all sides of things—the good and the bad. So, here goes. Our experience, so far, with Singapore has been mixed. We have met many nice people and had some good food. By the same token, we have met some very not so nice people and had some pretty not so good food. The biggest difficulty, I think primarily for me being that I’m American, is that I have realized how spoiled America has me or rather how efficient and fair the U.S. is, when it comes to consumerism. Coming from the United States to a place like Singapore can be tough. Singapore presents with being the consumer nation that the U.S. is when looking from the outside in. So, when you arrive here, there are shops galore and it seems that the only thing that people do is shop. Feels and looks just like home! There are big malls, the stores are open until late every night, they sell a variety of items, and they advertise tons of sales everywhere. But, that’s where the similarities end. Once you begin shopping, you notice the differences, such as: return policies being much stricter than in the U.S., false advertising, and prices being negotiable or flexible depending on who you are. I’ll give you a few examples:

1) The other day I went to a place to do my eyebrows. They had a “special” and the lady told me that I could go get a pedicure at their partner nail salon with this “special” but that I had to pay in advance and then I could go there at any time and redeem my pedicure. I went ahead and purchased the package, since I’m always quick to buy a bargain when it comes to beauty. So yesterday, I went ahead to the nail place to redeem my “special” pedicure. I walked in, told the lady at the front desk that I had prepaid for my pedicure. She then recommended to me that I pay an extra $5 for a foot dip. An extra $5? I asked her what this was for and reminded her that I had already paid for my pedicure. She then informed me that it was to ensure that the bacteria was washed away from the bin that she was going to use and for my feet and that it is more hygienic this way. Oh well, in that case, then definitely charge me the extra $5! She then looked at my paid receipt and proceeded to tell the nail technician that I had paid for a Classic pedicure. I sat there as the lady did my nails and I enjoyed watching their TV for about an hour(since we still don’t have a tv and I’ve realized how much I miss TV). The pedicure was nice. The color came out good, she took her time, and I felt relaxed. Little did I know, my relaxation was quickly going to become major frustration! I got up ready to leave (in my naïve little head I had already paid, so all I had to do was give her the stupid $5 for the hygiene thingy—which, by the way, I still don’t understand what it was for). Anyways, she told me I could not leave yet and got on the phone and was talking to someone (I suspected the lady from the eyebrow place) for about 10 minutes in a language that I don’t understand. She then got off the phone and told me that I owed an extra $14 on top of the money I had already paid and on top of the $5. “For what?” I asked. In very broken English, she proceeded to tell me that I had only paid for an Express pedicure and she gave me the Classic pedicure. I went ahead and showed her the little receipt I had from the eyebrow lady that clearly said “Classic” pedicure and paid. Well, this lady was not budging. I got into a back and forth with her, got tired, and finally gave her the $14 because I was too tired of fighting with someone whom I could not understand and whom could not understand me. Then, as I walked out, Tariq saw the frustration in my face and came to my rescue. He insisted that we go back to the eyebrow place and continue to fight for our rights! So that’s what we did. We asked for a manager and after much fighting, we were finally informed that their employee had incorrectly written Classic on my receipt when, in fact, I had only paid for the Express. Well, Tariq (being the stubborn business man that he is) started to tell them that this was not my fault but rather their employee’s fault and that if they did not reimburse me for the extra $14, that he would be contacting the credit card company to reverse all of the charges. Well, this seemed to do the trick, as they reimbursed me for the $14 and apologized for all of the confusion. But, seriously it became a whole different approach once a man became involved.

2) That same night, we went to look for a TV. Buying a TV here has been a true mission! It takes us about an hour to get to the stores to look for the TV, by the time we wait for the bus, take the bus, and walk to wherever it is we are walking to. Anyhow, after our 1 hour journey, we finally get to the store and search for the TV. You would think that TVs are cheaper here… after all, we are in Asia (isn’t that where Samsung and Toshiba are from??) but WRONG! TVs are so expensive here and there is no such thing as Costco! So, we finally find one that is affordable and tell the sales guy that we want that one. “Oh no” he says, “Can’t give you that one, but I have this LED one, if you’d like, much better!”. To which we replied, “no thank you, we don’t need LED, we just need a cheap TV”. He then says “No stock no stock” At this point, we have no idea what is going on.. so we ask him “but can we order this one?” He then tells us in a louder voice “no stock no stock on that one, no advice why you don’t buy LED! Its better!” (but mind you the one he is trying to sell us is about triple the price of the other one and this guy has not made any attempts to check his so-called stock, as he hasn’t looked into a computer or asked anyone..he’s just standing there yelling at us to buy the LED). We, again, now even more frustrated tell him we don’t want your LED, we want this price! We then ask him can we take the display one and again he replies “No cannot sell”. All the while, there was no smile, no “sorry sir”, no “let me check a second” from this guy.  So, we left, empty handed and extremely frustrated, as they have this great TV on display for a good price that supposedly, does not exist and if it does, it cannot be bought! Tariq reminds me that this is called “bait and switch” to which I reply, “no this is false advertisement and this is illegal in my country!” Take me home!

Ahhh!! Run for Your Life!! There’s a Wolf on a Leash!!

The wolf taking in the reservoir

The wolf taking in the reservoir

One thing we’ve noticed in the past week is that there are not a lot of big dogs in our neighborhood.  We have probably seen only one other big dog and it’s a golden retriever.  Every time we take Lobo out, it’s an adventure.  I have never seen anything like it.  I’m not sure if it’s because wolves are not typical to this part of Asia so it’s like seeing an alligator in California, but people freak out every time we bring Lobo out.   Kids cry, people run, ladies hide behind their husbands, old people point, small children make comments to their parents like “Oh my GOD, they have a wolf!!”

For the past week, I have been trying to capture at least their faces on camera, so that we could document their horror, but it’s been hard to snap a photo while holding the fierce animal! All the while this ferocious wolf that I have on a leash is more terrified of them than they are of him. As they yell, point, and run, Lobo cowers, tucks his tail between his legs and hides behind either me or Tariq.  Hopefully, the more the wolf makes his rounds around the neighborhood, the less noticeable he’ll be.  Until then, Tariq and I have full protection from any dangerous people in the streets.

Singapore’s Famous Chilli Crab and Pepper Crab

Lent started about a week ago, so I’ve been really trying to stay focused on continuing my Lenten practices even while I’m abroad.  During Lent, most people abstain from eating any sort of meat on Fridays.  I thought this was a Latino Lenten practice, but when talking to Tom, he informed me that this is typical where he is from too.  So, this Friday we decided that, since we all had to eat something other than meat, we might as well eat some local Chili crab.

Singapore has a few signature dishes.  One of these signature dishes is called Chili crab.  They basically get an entire crab, throw it in a pot, and serve it in some red tomato like, chili sauce.  It’s a large dish and can be shared by several people.  They also bring you these delicious biscuits to dunk in the chili sauce when you’re done eating the crab.  Despite its name, Chili crab is not very spicy but so delicious!  We ordered one Chili crab and one pepper crab, which is similar, except for the crab is blackened with pepper.  They brought us some bibs and a crab cracker thingy and we dug in! Here’s a picture of us prior getting our hands dirty! Oh and that’s Tom and Maryanne in the picture!