Saturday, 22 October 2011

Can it be more Dutch?

Together with my colleage, Frank, I am participating in a race. The ABN AMRO Ambassador's Cup 2011. I trained one time before with Frank. We are sailing a Blade catamaran, the 'Wassup', a small, but fast little boat, that can reach speeds of up to 20 knots (close to 40 km/hr). I have experience with big monohulls, and the difference cannot be bigger! The speed, acceleration are hard to catch in words. It kind of reminds me of the high speed wind surfing I did in the past, the bad news however is that much more can go wrong with the catamaran. It can even flip frontwards, not a nice thing when you are hanging outside, hooked in your harness!
With absolutely no expectations we participated, there were different classes ranging from Catamarans, Trimarans to big monohull yachts. Our class starts 10 mins after the first group (the big yachts). There is good wind, and it does feel great to pass in a few minutes time the whole field of yachts with amazing speed difference. I shout:"Dont't worry, we will not drink all the beer, so long S...ers!!!". There is just something magic about high speeds with use of the wind only! We do a 40 km trip, unfortunately, during the last hour the wind drops to almost zero, and we are even overtaken by some of the bigger monohulls... THE HUMILIATION! (Glad I did not actually shout out that beer remark)

But after we return, it is party time, live music, buffet. I am wearing an Ambassador's Cup poloshirt with a big ABN AMRO logo, there are waitresses in Heineken (other big sponsor) dresses that keep filling the glasses; CAN IT BE MORE DUTCH? I even have a bitterbal! Fortunately the buffet is not Dutch.
Many Embassies are represented, and even the Dutch Ambassador gives a short speech.
Then... the prices are called, and from the Embassies the Belgians won! But then, much to our surprise, when it comes to the Catamaran Class, we are called for the 3rd price!!! I guess we did something right. So from here we decide that it should go upward only. We will cherish our little trophy, and when our price cabinet needs tidying because we run out of space, I promise to not throw out this one!

I will join the Changi Sailing Club (see pics above) and we will go do some serious racing!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


Yes I finally found a place!
I did not want to bother you with my thought processes, like 'almost downtown is still not downtown'. Or 'the more square meters, the better'. Or 'money is overrated anyhow'. Anyway, the housing brings me to one of the few inconsistencies in this city, the city that seems to be planned to perfection. Yes, Singapore is metric! Meters, kgs, liters... without making too much of a value judgement on non-metric medieval (or is that a value judgement?) units, let's suffice with the statement: metric is a good thing. However, the moment we are talking about housing here in Singapore, everything suddenly changes to square feet!! Fortunately, I managed to get a 1100 sq ft (did you know that makes a 122 sq yard?) apartment. OK that means 102 sq meters.
It is downtown, 200 m away from Orchard road, also 200 m away from the nearest subway entry (I then still need a 5 minute walk underground). This is particularly handy for the frequent heavy rainstorms. The kind that we experience in the Netherlands a few times per year, during summer, if any. Here it can last anywhere from 5 mins to a few hours. And they can happen all year long, in the rainy season just more frequently. So yes, you do not want to have to walk too long!
I did some sightseeing, and Singapore is impressive indeed. I had seen it before, but it still hits me. I inserted some pics of the marina bay area, including the Merlion, the lion/mermaid, the national symbol. And the Marina Bay Sands building, a 207 meter high hotel/casino/resort, with a 150 m long pool on the top, with palm trees of course. The huge solar powered outdoor fan (pic on the bottom left) is a nice cool shady place for a rest during the 33C/90% humidity average day. The fence and lights of the recent Formula 1 are still there.
More to follow!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

I absolutely guarantee that you will not have any sun here in the afternoon

House hunting was a great experience. I was with a local agent, Jane. Jane is friendly and efficient. Jane managed to squeeze 7 appointments into 3 hours, including lunch.

As in any big city, the closer you are to downtown, the more expensive it gets. Or, as for most mortals that have a limit to their budget, the less space you get.

After I had seen them all, in my head I made the ABSOLUTE perfect condo, consisting of location #2 (2 minutes away from Somerset), the kitchen of #3, the facilities of #6 (looked like a holiday resort, big pool with little BBQ peninsulas) and the inside space of #7.
The master bedroom of #2 would barely fit my double bed, but walking around it would not be an option. And no, I am not exagerating.

Some kitchens are not meant to really use for cooking, as I noted. They look impressive, but are impractical. They are only used for heating up take-away food and instant noodles, for the few days you are not eating out. Food is one of the few things that are really cheap here, unlike most European countries. The service however, is usually really good, again unlike most European countries. Many people here just do not cook very often. And, I must say, my take-away Nasi Lemak (Coconut Cream soaked & steamed rice with chicken, veggies and spicy sambal sauce) of yesterday evening, for EUR2,50 surely tasted nice!
The lack of dishwashers, even in these luxury apartments, as Jane explained, was because most people in this price segment pay someone else to do their dishes.

Anyway...back to reality, I realize I will have to make a choice. My choices are actually now between#1 and #7.
#1: Downtown, walking distance (10 mins) of Somerset and Clark key (one of the main places to go out) but small space. I would definitely have to get rid of some of my stuff. Also my new big espresso machine plus grinder would pretty much fill up the little counter space available in the kitchen.
#7: Novena Area, two subway stations north of Orchard. Jane insisted to show me the Novena area, as a new upcoming area. And indeed, the apartment was amazing!!! The kind where you say: yes, I would like to live here. Split level, high ceiling in living room, two bathrooms, separate guest room and quite spacious. The landlady, as she was 'selling' her property, told me: "I absolutely guarantee that you will not have any sun here in the afternoon". Great irony... I remember that recently I told my real estate agent in NL to emphasize the nice evening sun that I get in my house over there!
But here in Singapore I fully understand that you do not want the sun shine into your apartment; it will just turn your place into a sauna, and rack up your electricity bill in order to cool it down,

It seems I will go for #7.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Fly me to the moon

Yes, I am in Singapore now. A transition that is almost impossible to describe. The trip already started in an unusual way. Once in the plane, we heard that the cooling system did not function well. The good news was that there was another plane waiting. However... (there is always a 'but' isn't there?) we were already cleared for security, so we were asked to get off the plane, were lined up in groups of 25, then escorted by 4 security guards through the terminal to the new gate. Quite a bizarre spectacle, that lasted for another hour to be completed. With 3 hours of delay I arrived.

Although I had already visited Singapore some 6 or 7 times, this time everything was different. The fact that I had burnt my bridges, left everything, to settle here for an new, surprising (probably), exciting (definitely) and happy (hopefully) life, changes my whole perspective.

This is where I will live. Singapore. Five million people on an island that has 45 kms as the longest distance. The Singaporeans, friendly, with their cute 'Singlish' accent (trust me, this deserves at least a few blogs by itself) are an interesting cultural blend of Chinese (for example they drink a lot of tea) and English colonial heritage (so they add milk to it).
Safe, clean, and HOT HOT HOT, in many different aspects (again enough ammo for some future blogs)

I arrive at my temporary place. A nice, so called 'serviced' apartment. Downtown, right in the middle of downtown. The 'serviced' part means that a cleaning lady will clean up three times a week and change the bedding.

Although a little renovation would not be out of place here, it has great facilities, like being DOWNTOWN (or did I mention that already?), has a pool, and, well, pool (like snooker). And of course a tennis court and a gym! It also has 2 bedrooms, a washing machine and a non-existing diswasher. I guess nothing is perfect.

The pool looks inviting, I can see it from my balcony at the 17th floor. I decide I need to take a dip. For me, swimming has always been somewhat associated with cold and shiver. "Come in the water, once you're in it is really kinda nice", is what the brave swimmers in the Netherlands usually shout at you while you are in doubt, standing at the poolside, wishing you had gone for a nice warm cappuccino instead. Not here. Not in Singapore! It is 9:30 pm. I take a cold (bwahaha!) shower first at the poolside, then dive into the lukewarm water, and do ten laps (25m I guess) And no, I am not a trained swimmer, I always saw it merely as a means to not drown. But the feeling of warmth and comfort is overwhelming. I get out of the water, the air is warm. I lay down with a magazine, I do not dry myself. Even then it stays comfortable. I get some Freudian associations with a whom.
I look up in the sky, there is a moon. The old song 'Fly me to the moon' starts playing in my head, the Frank Sinatra version. This is a good moment.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Keyless Keyring

I handed in my car plus car keys... a nice new Saab, 9550 kms, probably one of the last ones ever produced. Knowing the prices for cars in Singapore, I realize for this money I should be glad to get a 4 year old Corolla there. But I will probably try to live without a car there; I intend to live downtown, where a car is nothing but an expensive nuisance. I want to use public transportation and/or taxis. I calculated that taking a taxi everyday to work from downtown (25 mins) will still be cheaper than driving the 4 year old Corolla.
Of course in the subway, other then during my stay in Switzerland, blending in will be somewhat more of a challenge.

I also did a final check in my house and handed over the keys to the real estate broker who will rent out my place. My key ring is now keyless... So guess it is just a ring now. With a Heineken Bottle Opener attached to it. But soon it will carry the shiny key of some spiffy place in Singapore, if everything goes according to plan!

At least the weather is really nice, so the struggle between feelings of sadness and feelings of excitement for the future is, at least for now, won by the latter.

Should I come back, this house is where I will return.