Friday, 28 February 2003

feeling frodo-ish

after days of gazing at the infinitesimal stars and galaxies through the beautifully clear and dark skies of garopaba (you can see full constellations of Orion, the Southern Cross, the Milky Way etc almost every single night!), watching hummingbirds and dragonflies dancing in the fresh morning air while having breakfast of eggs, sausages, tomatoes, orange juice and brazilian coffee, having invigorating dips in the clear ocean waters a stone´s throw away from the magnificent siriu sand dunes, mermerised by the magical illumination of fireflies while sharing huge pans of steaming hot paellas with jovial Agentines, downed with the best red and white wines this side of the planet - i have almost become too comfortable to embark on the southward journey ahead - feeling almost like how i imagine the hobbits must have felt in rivendale! but onward i must go, now with the Uruguay visa securely in my hands (which by the way cost a whopping US$45!).

the land rover, fresh from some thorough servicing, will be packed with milk, bread, orange juice, crackers, and gallons of water, plus essentials like tents, blankets, etc. we must leave soon.. before the black riders.., i mean the Carnaval :p rolls along and highways fill with drunken and rowdy kinds.. and also before the south gets too cold.. okee.. that´s all for now!

and very importantly: for the dearest people who are expecting phone calls from me, sorry!! the woman at the telefonico es muy antipatico and doesn´t give a damn to my hapless situation of not being able to call through.. so i have to use the internet to communicate for now!


Monday, 24 February 2003

war news

in sleepy garopaba, it is not easy to get accurate and up-to-date news on the war in iraq.

us: any latest news on the war, senor?
guy no. 1: there is no war. they have decided not to fight.
us: huh?? really?? that´s great news!! hooray!! they´ve finally listened to the voice of peace and reason!! they´re finally bowing down to the protests of 600 cities!!
guy no. 2: don´t listen to the man... he knows NOTHING! the war is still going on!
us: huh? oh.

so we check the Internet and it seems like peace is not quite here yet.. sigh.. but it really touched me to know that 600 cities all around the world have shown the Islamic world that the world is not quite as divided as some trouble-makers hope to make it.. and hence, hopefully, we see less acts of random terrorism against the Western world..

hurrah for world peace!
life in a monastery

i sat this morning, after a light breakfast of muesli, orange juice and coffee, with the sun on my hands and feet, watching hummingbirds playing in the sun. There were seven, no eight, of these delightful little things dancing in joyous harmony, darting amongst the splendid bouquets in the tree, teasing them with their childish play. The dragonflies had their own field day in the much-awaited sunshine, after two days of gloomy weather had threatened to turn sunny brazil into london. They were flying in twos and threes, carefree and spontaneous. Above me swooped two to three eagles, their wings lifted by the gentle breeze. They drifted high in the air, like kites, silent, mysterious. The roar of the foamy ocean in the distance, like jetplanes taking off - loud, soft, intermittent. The forest hummed behind me, still asleep, broken only by the sudden loud cry of a frog, or bird or some unknown inhabitant of the thick, rich forest behind me.

A moment of magic suddenly! A hummingbird stops, with its wings beating furiously, a breath away above my head, enjoying the sweet essence of the bougainvillea flower. I watched mermerised. The moment was timeless. Pure enchantment. And then it was off again.

i turned back to my book. The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Vikram Seth. i took a deep breath, breathing in the sweet fresh morning air. Time was on my side for once. i will take a dip in the ocean later.

Friday, 21 February 2003

garopaba & whale-watching

1444km south from dusty rio and we are now in the beautiful laid-back seaside village of garopaba. it´s so small it´s not even in most of the main maps of brazil nor in my copy of lonely planet.. which is surprising ´cos this place is suposed to be great for sperm whale watching, and it is truly one of the most stunning places i have seen in my travels, with rich green foliage covered mountains all around, wide swatches of flat white beaches, blue sea as far as my eye can see, and little white sail boats bobbing in the distance..

like all places that i´ve been to that i can imagine retiring to in my old age, garopaba has endless stretches of undulating cobbled stone walkways, little alleyways that lead to mysterious places, small quaint shops selling groceries and other random things, laughing children and relaxed retired folks, fresh clean cool air, little vehicular traffic, clean white houses with beautiful balconies that look out to the beautiful ocean..

the only drawback is that there are no autoroam networks for my m1 phone here so i can´t sms. we may be hanging around here for a week or so in some mountain top resort to relax, read, write, do a bit of photography and maybe wait for the Carnaval (a smaller-scaled one than the one in rio but definitely safer and cheaper) to take place before moving on to the Iguazu Falls at the border of Brazil and Argentina.. :)

more updates to come as the adventure rolls on..

Wednesday, 19 February 2003

copacaba beach babe

more blogging!! hahaha.. looks like it sure pays to have a place near a really nice Internet cafe! :) (note: Accesse Aqui Cyber Cafe near Rua Boelhoes de Carvalho - something like that..)

spent the rest of the day toasting with the cariocas on the most famous beach in the world. the diversity of people here in Rio amongst the cariocas is astounding.. one can see a mix of africans (descended from the slaves), latinos, europeans and many others.. a lot of the men here generally have good surfer bodies (either they do a lot of body building or it´s in the genes??), while the womenfolk are tanned, well-endowed (real?) but smoke a lot..we took a bus ride watching the people from the safety of the bus window (surprisingly clean and airconditioned bus)- the dynamics of the people - from the way they interacted with each other, walked on the street, stood around and waited for things to happen.. i think this is a wonderful place to people-watch!

copacabana beach was really nice and the sunset was mindblowing.. hurt my arm slightly when i was hit by a massive and cold ocean wave and had to spend the rest of my time sitting on the beach people-watching to recover. i hope it doesn´t hurt too much tomorrow..

tomorrow, we will take an airconditioned bus and leave this giant city and travel to a smaller village.. i´ll see if i can find Internet access as i go along... :)

is everyone well??
greetings from rio de janeiro

hello my faithful friends! ola de brasil!! really nice to be able to find Internet access here!

bit of a shock since landing yesterday after a nine hour flight from lisboa right into the bustling city of rio.. from 0 degrees in london to a tropical 30 degrees celsius.. phew! rio is every bit the way i expected it to be.. ever bustling with semi-clad cariocas on their way to the famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana - amazing stretches of pristine white sand beaches curving some many kilometres along the coastline - to the mix of new and old architecture, slum housing and decaying urbanisation lying in the shadow of the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer and the peak of Corcovado one sees often in postcards, as well as the asymmetric Sugar Loaf mountain standing incongruously in the bay, unavoidable to one´s eye no matter which way you turn.

the heat is getting a little to me.. as well as the knowledge that tourists have to be ever on the alert.. after all, rio is supposed to be the fifth most dangerous city in the world.. and tourists are known, to the very bad, as ´filet mignon´! gulp! oh well, what to do.. better to be on the side of caution, my mantra that is always..

chao! :)

Monday, 17 February 2003

london, oh london

caught in the midst of anti-war protests, tube accidents on the central line causing train delays and closed stations, glum faces clad in thick coats of beige, black and navy blues, and blustery single digit temperatures - this was london as i got off my tube journey from Heathrow Airport to Tottenham Court Rd yesterday - misty, foggy and very, very cold... the way i always remember London and the way it always will be... 5 degrees? brrr... it feels more like sub-zero...

my rucksack was weighing a ton as i trudged through Oxford St .. they had closed the usually busy street as an estimated 1 million Londoners took to the streets, in an almost festive mood, with placards, banners and Bush-Blair masks to protest Blair's support of the war in Iraq .. we definitely don't see anything quite like this in Singapore.. talk about being on a little island of our own.. umm... London always gives you the feeling of being in the centre of things..

still i got to eat at my favourite Young Cheng restaurant in Chinatown for dinner before coming back to watch the news of the protests on tv (with Blair declaring the war as "an act of humanity".. oh oh.. sounds like a boo-boo here.. channel4 was quick to respond today, in the usual dry Brit manner of humour, with a fake "newscaster" reporting on interviews with Iraqi children on the streets thanking Blair for letting them die more quickly and hence more "humanely" with bombs rather than slowly dying on the streets of hunger due to UN sanctions.. hahaha.. )

today, i attended church service at this sw london vineyard place in Zone 2 and they served donuts in the middle of service and coffee and fruit at the start and end.... pretty weird but definitely keeps you awake.. heard they started that in canada and then copied it here... nice worship songs too and the pastor was funny.. that was followed by lunch at chinatown (again) before we headed off to the Science Museum to see this James Bond exhibition (which we didn't see in the end 'cos it would cause 8 pounds 95 and they were really crowded) and to see this Open Air "Earth From The Air" Photo Exhibition by Yann Arthus-Betrand (really amazing except that it was too cold)...

London is always so much fun... :)

i'm headed off to Brazil tomorrow. may not be able to update much after this.. may update if i can find at least 14.4kbps Internet access along the way?? :p

Thursday, 13 February 2003

travel mascot

after a most rigorous and careful audition process, the travel mascot for this exciting trip to South America has finally been selected!!

< the audience holds its breath >< someone at the back coughs >< a baby sneezes >

This year's winner* is...< drum roll >.. Thermo Bearbrick!! chosen because we believe he will truely truly reflect the climate of each place he will be visiting on this trip!

< wild applause >< wolf whistles >< a protest in the fifth row >

congratulation to this trip's winner! - picture taken using scanner photography

*the winner gets the chance to actually visit the countries and may even appear in photographs (a-la the garden gnome in french movie "Amelie")!

congratulations, Mr Bearbrick!
getting ready

i'm almost ready for my big trip! my preparations are all done..

i'm (almost) all packed.. except for my toothbrush, my contact lenses, hair brush, sandals and handphone. and some random odds and ends. also got to remember to double-check on my passport, visa, air tickets, credit cards and driver's licence (just-in-case.. who knows..). and i need to buy superglue, duct tape, ziplock bags and socks tomorrow. and to change some US$ and UK pounds.

i've got some cool stuff.. like my quick-dry, ultra compact Atwater Carey - Camp 'n Travel Towel. i've also got a Nalgene 48oz wide-mouth Cantene, Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets (chlorine-based..yucky..), vaccination jabs for Hep A & B, tetanus and yellow fever, SAF insect repellent gel (the green tube.. this seriously is the best i've used so far), new bulbs for my trusty 2cell AA Maglite, many (and hopefully enough) rolls of Fuji Provia 100 Fine Grain film, medication from the doctor for flu, fever, travel sickness, diarrhoea, rashes, insect bites, etc etc., first aid and emergency tool kit with stuff for sewing, cutting, turning screws, tweezing. enough Spanish (I hope) not to look too unapproachable (though they speak Portuguese in Brazil.. oops..), 200ml bottles of toiletries of all types (shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser, shower gel etc), wet and dry tissues, warm clothing - including gloves and a cap to keep me warm and dry, clothes for warm and cool weather, extra batteries to keep things running, world-wide travel plug adaptor, raffia string to hang up clothes to dry, Lord of The Rings (the whole volume!) to read (hee hee..), my Swiss army knife, a fresh new travel journal, icc no. of countries i am going to, Lonely Planet's South America on a shoestring (an old edition)... that pretty much covers it....

:) very excited now... (and thanks all for the friendly farewell sms-es and phonecalls..).. you reckon i'll miss blogging while i'm away?? :p

Wednesday, 12 February 2003

naughty adult bear

alb gave me a gloomy bear for v-day! it is so cute!!

my gloomy bear!!

but behind that innocent face, it's really vicious! click to find out what it does to humans!! :O

click for website

the Japs are pretty weird.. i always thought.. made by this guy called Chax

Tuesday, 11 February 2003

too many things too little time

i've got a hundred and one things to do today and they all seem to overlap!

my original plans for today were to just get my yellow fever jab (ouch!) from the travel clinic down at Tan Tock Seng and then go for a class gathering dinner at East Coast seafood centre with my JC classmates later in the day (which should be fun - though i'm frankly not in the mood to be hanging out with a big bunch of people just before my trip)..

but now i'm suddenly tempted to go see the Robot Zoo exhibition at the Singapore Science Centre (which means the jab is out, unless i try to rush to one after the other) since it will end in March (before i am back), and then after that to catch the supposedly really funny show Tadpole which is only showing at Plaza Singapura at 5.10pm.. i'm even tempted to give the class gathering a miss after reading about China piano whizkid Li Yundi's one-night only concert at Esplanade this evening (at exactly the same timing as the class gathering).. it should be pretty amazing to hear him play (he was the first winner of the top award at the prestigious Chopin Competition in 2000, after it was "withheld for 15 years for want of a deserving winner"!) .. Chopin and Liszt.. cool... what to do.. what to do...?
frodo has failed

oh no!! i can't bear to watch the third episode!!
travel preparations

just in case my less-than-frequent blogging of late has left you wondering or worrying about what i've been up to (or worse still, suspecting that i've already flown off without warning.. ), here i am! still around in sunny (er.. occasionally gloomy and stormy) singapore!! just started on my official leave (woo hoo!! :)) today and have been busy running around since this morning making the necessary preparations for my trip starting this Sat morning - heading first for London (aka my favourite city in the world), stopping for a day, before flying off on my second flight leg to Rio de Janeiro via Lisbon.

though i'm used to packing for backpacking trips, and the actual tossing of stuff into my rucksack for a two to three-week holiday sometimes takes no more than two to three hours (not including obtaining travel visas from embassies that sometimes appear like they don't actually like tourists, changing of foreign currencies, learning of foreign languages etc), i have to admit that preparation for a trip of this length did take quite a bit of planning and time, with more and more of "i wonder if i need that too" and "umm, that might make the trip more comfortable" cropping in the more i looked over my usual travel checklist... some last-minute "wow, why didn't i think of that earlier on!" couldn't have been planned for, of course :p, but i'm glad i got the more important stuff like the travel visa, insurance, air tickets, medication, jabs (ouch!) etc out-of-the-way early enough and the fun bit of trip packing and shopping is all that appears to be left now - and of course meeting up with some good friends before i fly off..:)

made a round of my usual key stops for travel shopping - peninsular plaza for film and other camera stuff (spent more than $400 here!!) as well as for backpacking stuff (which the store on the second floor has - stuff like compasses, etc - bought a fleece jacket for a little over $100! really nice and warm and will be handy for other trips! :) and new bulbs for my trusty Maglite, as well as warm socks and gloves), then swung by watsons for all the toiletries and medication stuff that i need (thank God for Watsons!).. and a final stop at the neighbourhood shop for stuff like duct tape, superglue, ziplock bags etc and to photocopy key documents like passport, tickets etc.

with that, a large part of the travel shopping is actually done and i'm left with organising the stuff into my backpack into some logical order so i can find stuff easily, and other odds and ends for the next couple of days.. phew! :) keep you updated!

Saturday, 8 February 2003


this guy lets you put whatever text (in your own choice of colours) you want on his bare chest and he will photograph it, put it on his website, and let you use it for whatever purpose you want.. for a mere price of US$20 (payable through Paypal)..

i found the site rather disturbing for some reason.. but he seems to have made some (?) money from folks crazy enough to try out his idea... oh well...
personality test

hate long personality tests with long questions and even longer answers? try this then...

Your score is

what does that mean?
Others see you as an exciting, highly volatile, rather impulsive personality; a natural leader, who's quick to make decisions, though not always the right ones. They see you as bold and adventuresome, someone who will try anything once; someone who takes chances and enjoys an adventure. They enjoy being in your company because of the excitement you radiate.

My personality is rated 38.
What is yours?

About your score...
The closer to fifty that the number is, the stronger your personality is.
The closer to zero that the number is, the weaker your personality.
The best scores to have are between 25 and 40.

Friday, 7 February 2003

stuff i recently discovered

leonardo's mirror writing

- Leonardo da vinci sometimes writes with a special kind of shorthand that he invented himself, known as "mirror writing", possibly to "make it harder for people to read his notes and steal his ideas". A friend of mine is currently practising how to do that with his left hand, while simultaneously trying to write with the right hand.. sounds qute cool.. i'm going to try to train my left hand to do that too.. :) a natural right-hander, he's trying to teach his left hand to use the chopstick and also to draw, convinced that the left-hand is undertrained and that it would help to strengthen the right side of the brain... i wonder if we can ever train ourselves to write just as well with both hands? umm...

- Japanese smilies.. (^_^) are different from western smilies.. :-) ... personally, i prefer the Japanese ones!!! so cute!! kawaii!!

- Chinese contemporary art website - I remember discussing with a friend once (while we were at the opening of the Chinese contemporary art exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum) about the development of modern art in China these recent years.. it's amazing how avant-garde Chinese artists can be..and a lot of them seem to be heading towards the same style.. using blood, sweat, bread mold, food.. etc in their artworks, especially leaning towards the use of installations and on-site pieces, and the use of the "shock" element on their audiences.. (a response to the communist regime??)... this site is a good example of how extreme they can be... their art truly transcends time, space and all the usual limits.. pretty cool in a way..

Monday, 3 February 2003

scanner photography

i've been meaning to try out this scanner photography thingy* since i last read about it in a magazine at kinokuniya some two months back..

see my virgin efforts.. pardon me for the random subjects, but i couldn't find much else to photograph at home.. :p... see also some expert works by people like Doris Mitsch and Katinka Matson. you can even scan your face!!

you shall see more scanner photographs from me in time to come.. :).. this is fun!!

* photos are done not with a camera but with a normal flatbed scanner. i cover the glass with a piece of transparency to keep it clean before placing my subjects on the scanner, and then use a shoe box to cover my subjects to keep their background dark, before scanning them with the lid of the flatbed scanner open (so as not to squish them) and to retain their 3D-ness..
lava lamp fantasies

this has got to be one of the wettest and gloomiest chinese new years we have experienced in a long time.. managed to finish reading one book, complete five Spanish lessons on the audio CD, and go for three runs over the past few days.... more entertaining to go tonight after some heavy duty mahjong sessions (a-la joy luck club) last night till 3am with a bunch of close friends..

staying at home has become quite enjoyable after all... :)

Saturday, 1 February 2003

To all my blogging friends:

New Year Greetings - sms-style