Bali through Chris’ eyes

Bali opened my eyes on several subjects and was a memorable experience. It was my first country outside of Singapore and therefore, probably the first country in “real” Asia.

Firstly, religion is a fundamental part of the Balinese culture. People normally pray three times a day and offer gifts to the gods. As life has changed in the last few decades, making an offering twice a day has to do. I strongly assume that the happiness we see in these people, is influenced by their religion. Of course, other factors come into play, too, but it is my only explanation for the spiritual life they live and for their relaxed, friendly appearance.

Secondly, the uncountable number of temples, offering tables and architecture gives Bali a certain touch you can not imagine or interpret from pictures. I knew from my travels in Canada that I have a weak spot for moss and its green, soft glow. But the moss glow on the walls of these buildings touched me deeply. Everything seemed unspoiled, innocent in the way nature creates its rare spots, where cameras cannot even come close to capturing your eyes point of view. The feeling you get by looking at these magically-in-moss-wrapped places is a WOW! in your head, where you keep forgetting to blink until your eyes start hurting because you don’t want to miss a single thing. These moments were my personal highlights of my stay in Bali.

Thirdly, corrupt societies live often on the shoulders of people with low income. I am aware that this “learning” is not a breakthrough in cultural understanding of corruption. It was somewhat sad to hear that on several, unrelated occasions, that to pay a police officer off privately can save you from a parking ticket or even prison. People with money can do what they want and it is publicly known.

Fourthly, tourism can change a country. What we experienced in the streets of Bali has been developed over years. As a tourist, you are barley able to walk 5 meters without somebody trying to sell you something or honk at you for taxi service. In tourist areas, it is even hard to bargain because they know what other people pay. Our driver said that we can bargain up to 80%, which we never even got close to. All of this left behind a bad aftertaste. Do not get me wrong, I have not seen more genuine smiles in any other city so far, but I have also never felt as much as an object as in these 4 days. Next time, we would like to stay away from these areas.

We saw an island in Indonesia and were amazed by the culture and nature we encountered. I would love to go back, but hope to see other places first… Maybe Phuket? Maybe New Delhi?

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Bali through Maggie’s eyes

Chris and I chose a trip to this small Indonesian island on impulse, as Chris needed a trip out of Singapore before he received his work visa. And did our spontaneity ever pay off. This little gem has a rich culture, so different from anything I’ve experienced before. Many Balinese people have little money by our standards, yet these people appear to be fulfilled in ways us Westerners only dream of. We traveled to the North which is relatively untouched by tourists and there is such a strong sense of collectivism among the smiling faces you encounter in these rural areas. This society has evolved so differently from ours and during my time in the South, the heart of the touristic district, I often wondered if visits like ours destroyed this beautiful tranquility that Bali originally had. In the South, like Sanur where we stayed, you have shopkeepers begging you to buy from their stores or rent their massage services – and you eat in restaurants where only the tourists can afford to eat while being served by locals. These situations stirred up pangs of guilt, as I know tourism is the main source of income in Bali, all the while being responsible for the disintegration of the raw natural beauty and culture. Yet I do think ethical tourism is possible in Bali and I’d like to believe Chris and I did this whenever possible. And on that note, I cannot emphasize enough the unique experiences we had on this island. Our time in the North was a reinforcement that people’s love for life does not arise through money or materials – it’s through the relationships we build and the experiences we have. We have a lot to learn from these people who pick their families over their careers and their communities over themselves. We saw many sights during our four days in Bali, various ancient temples situated in the most stunning places I’ve ever seen, white sand beaches with crystal blue waters, and long stretches of jungle yielding tasty tropical fruits. I’ve shared some pictures to give you a taste of the place, but truth be told, it’s very difficult to capture the serenity that is Bali.

Welcome to our humble abode!

For an entire week now, we are living at the Interlace. In case you have missed the previous entry, here is a link.

As a request from our many readers we took some pictures from our apartment today. Here you go!

Discovering Singapore, like a touristy local

So we’ve arrived at week two of our Singaporean life. We’re feeling more at home here, and I say this because Chris and I are beginning to play fewer guessing games when listening to Singlish and find ourselves having less of the, “oh wow this is mysteriously chewy…” food experiences. I must emphasize that it’s less and not none. So, we still have a ways to go and we’ll continue to play the tourist game, exploring the city through the eye of our Lonely Planet tour book – while occasionally trusting our intuition to explore interesting alleys we stumble upon. In one of these said alleys, we found ourselves in a store selling a random collection of unmarked sporting goods, and accidently bargaining while asking for the price. Needless to say, we picked up some racquets for $5/piece and they’ll turn us into pros in no time.

So aside from settling in our new home, Chris having his first work meeting, me having my first lab meeting, we’ve managed to see a lot this week. We visited the man-made island called Sentosa, with shopping areas epitomizing Asian consumerism, beautiful rainforests which make you stand still in awe, and tropical beaches with a contrasting view out to the ships entering one of the biggest ports (if not the biggest) in the world. One evening we went to a bar on Arab Street to meet Chris’ friend from Switzerland. This bar lies amongst other two storey buildings in a charming district of Singapore, surrounded by the sky scrapers of downtown Singapore. The next day we decided to do a hike up to Mt Faber, using the Southern Ridges, a trail built so high that you have the rainforest canopy beneath your feet. This gave breathtaking panoramic views of Singapore and a welcomed breeze to cool off the melting tourists. In the evening we met up with my classmates who came to Singapore with me from Basel, we went to a stunning light show in the Marina Bay Gardens, drank some beers and went for a delicious meal in bustling Chinatown at 12.30am. Those were this week’s highlights, we’ve also enjoyed our time at the many malls, eating at different hawker (food) centers, swimming in our pool, getting a bit of gym time and trying to understand the bus system. The later through some serious trial and error!

Week 1

1DSC_0015So it’s been one week. Chris and I entered this knowing full well the adventure that was in store for us: a different culture, different food, and a different climate. But you can’t really prepare for this, no matter how many times you lay awake at night staring at your ceiling developing endless scenarios that the experience will yield – you have no way of calculating what exactly another country has in store for you. Singapore is a young, vibrant city with many things to explore and we’ve only scratched the surface. We’ve visited Little India and ate banana plate, Chinatown and bought a 50 cent electrical adapter, and the Singapore Botanic gardens where we had a taste of the jungle. Each visit brought very different experiences and gave us further insight into the rich diversity that is Singapore. We are excited to venture on, visiting more sights and delving into Singaporean cuisine.

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Looking for apartments

On our first days, we arranged a few viewings. Over all, we saw 8 apartments, rooms and condos, which gave us a good idea about the market. The viewings went from oh-my-god-that’s-old to fabulous-fancy-perfectly-located.

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We settled for this baby. Of course, we didn’t buy the whole one (only half). We have a two-bedroom apartment and share it with a Finnish professional. The Interlace is a highlight of Urban Architecture. Besides its 31 blocks and thus, very densely populated, it takes up new ways in urban planning. If you are interested, you can find more information here. What’s of most value for us – at least so far – are all the included amenities. In addition to the pools and the gym, we have a karaoke-room, mini-theatre and other things we will very likely only use once or twice. 🙂 What I haven’t mentioned is the capacity. Since the Condo opened at the end of the year, only a few people have moved in. Out of the 1’040 apartments, we would guess that only 15 % have moved in. That means we have plenty of space and silence. If you are interested in buying a place, please let us know! 😉

Bye Switzerland

It’s always sad to say goodbye. Especially, when you are leaving your friends and family for an entire year. So the morning of January 6 did not start with an especially fun day. Leaving in direction of Olten to catch the 7.20 train to the airport in Zurich. Our direct flight was already delayed when we arrived so we knew we had plenty of time.

The airplane was massive, as all A380’s are, and everything went smoothly. Our flight was – beside some turbulence – just fine. To mention was the perfect service on board: super friendly and fast. We arrived Tuesday morning at 6am and had despite some doubts – no problems at the immigration checkpoint. After a short breakfast and coffee, we took a cab directly to our hotel, which was going to be our stay for the next days. Since we arrived at around 7, we were not able to check in. So we left and explored the city for the first time and we were absolutely amazed. Green, big and colorful! Honeymoon phase kicked in instantly!