Buddha temples and helpers

It’s been over a week since we came home from Langkawi and I still haven’t finished my posts! Oh well, I’ll get there…

Life’s gone on… while everyone in Singapore is still very vigilant about Covid-19, the number of new cases has leveled off and half of the cases have recovered and are released. It feels like Singapore has it under control for the moment. How in-depth they research each case is mind blowing.

This is an example of how they trace each person. Anyone they were in contact with is contacted. They look into grab records and trace your steps. This is where Singapore has a certain element of “big brother is watching”. I don’t think this level of granularity would ever be possible in the US without a million lawsuits…

The bigger concern are countries that are reporting none or very few cases (Indonesia, we’re looking at you!). We’re not sure what to think about travel. We are planning to go to Bangkok in a week and a half but we will have to see. Luckily nothing’s booked that can’t be changed. spring break is also still up in the air. Originally we were wanting to go to northern Vietnam but we may table that and head south. The good news is there are lots of travel deals to be had out there! We aren’t particularly concerned about actually catching the virus (though we do wash our hands a lot!) but more the disruption that would occur if one of the countries we were to visit was put on the quarantine list. All five of us stuck in the condo for 2 weeks doesn’t sound like the best plan to me.

Outside the temple from the backside
The Buddha tooth relic temple

Over the weekend, the kids got some play dates in, we furniture shopped (new bookcase with pretty teak shelves, yay!) and then on Sunday Ryan got his first round of golf in while the kids and I went down to Chinatown. As expected, it was empty. While the kids really just wanted to shop, I made them at least look at a few other things. There are a number of interesting temples in Chinatown. One is the Buddha tooth relic temple. Basically bits and pieces of “Buddha” are strewn about Asia in temples. Here in Singapore. We have a tooth. Who knows the validity of this, but the temple is super cool. There are a thousand little golden Buddha’s inside and Buddha’s in different “phases”. In the above picture, the kids are standing in front of the future Buddha. We also saw our “personal” Buddha’s for the year we were born.

This is the one for the year of the snake, Avery and I share this one. We made a bow to it.

Unfortunately, due to the virus screening (in all public places in Singapore you have to have a temperature check. I don’t even really notice them anymore. At the temple we also had to write down our name and contact info) we couldn’t go up to the actually tooth room on the 4th floor. It was also very hot as they were not using the air con to try to improve ventilation. Needless to say, that made for some whiny small visitors. I guess we’ll have to come back…

While we walked around Chinatown, Ryan played his first round of golf with his co-worked Jim at marina bay. He reported it was a fun and sweaty round. He didn’t play the best since he hasn’t even picked up his clubs since October, but was happy to be back out. The only downside was the cost, he’s going to have to find a cheaper location! He might be ferry bound in the future to Batam or Bintan

We’ve also officially joined the American club. Our membership is still being finalized but I’m playing tennis on Friday’s (sadly, it was rained out last week). Ryan and I had dinner at the bar on Saturday while Ella babysat, which was nice. She even got both Liam and Avery to sleep!

As good of a job as Ella did babysitting, we’ve also hit the wall and need to figure out child care as well as other household “annoyances”. Basically we’ve come to the conclusion every other expat reaches. We need a helper. A “helper” is a live in domestic worker. There are many ways to hire someone. I had hoped to find one from another expat family who is leaving, but unless we want to wait, no luck there. I went to an agency this week and interviewed 5 lovely women (the “agency” was a surreal experience. We had hoped that going through an agency would provide a level of security for ourselves and the worker, but I’m not sure that’s true..) we are only considering “transfers” which are domestic workers already working in Singapore and we are more inclined to hire a Filipino worker as other nationalities have food constraints. I also like Filipino food. I have 2 coming back to the condo. Hopefully one of them works out. It will be very strange to have someone living with us. I wasn’t very keen on it and I’m still very nervous. I also worry our living space is too small for them, though I’ve been assured it is not. But I’m also excited to give up cleaning, laundry and cooking. I’ve felt very tied to the condo since moving here between the never ending laundry, grocery shopping and deliveries. And the truth is, I don’t really know how to cook with local ingredients and I welcome someone who can do that for us. Right now finding the right person and ironing out all the details is a bit confusing. But it will come together and hopefully make living here a more enjoyable experience for me. I cannot wait to be able to go out at night for more than 2 hours!

A goodbye from yoda statue from one of my AWA walks this week. I also began to learn Majong. More on that to come.

Lovely Langkawi

Our first weekend getaway has come and gone. When we agreed to the move to Singapore, a big motivation for us was the travel that we would be able to do from here. Our goal is to try to travel somewhere once a month. For months, I’ve been enjoying researching where to go and realizing that there are actually too many amazing places to see and too little time. I picked langkawi because it was easy to get to (only a 1:20 flight), looked beautiful and fun. It was all of those things and more!

Our first opportunity was valentine’s weekend. The kids had a half day of school on Friday, so we decided to pull them for the day. With the paranoia about the virus, we were a bit worried about taking the trip and did discuss cancelling. I’m so glad we didn’t!

Our flight was 8:45am on Friday morning. We left the condo at 6:15 with our Purell and face masks. We were through security and eating breakfast by 7:15. Amazing to be so close to the airport and to live near such an efficient airport! Avery and Liam quickly declared they hated the face masks and they’d rather get the virus. So much for masking up! Ryan, Ella and I did wear them on the way to Langkawi. None of us wore them home on Sunday night…

Ready to board!

Our flight was delayed for about 30 minutes, but nothing too serious.

Airport in Langkawi. The kids loved getting off right on the tarmac.
Langkawi is the northernmost part of Malaysia. It’s known as the “jewel of Kedah” for its beauty. It’s actually an archipelago of 99 islands of which only 3 are inhabited (we think all are inhabited by monkeys!). Langkawi means island of the reddish brown eagle. It is known for its eagles, beautiful topography and lush rainforest.
After a 20 minute car ride, we were at our resort, the Berjaya. There are a lot of resorts on the island and it was difficult to choose. Traveling as a family of 5 is a challenge. We didn’t think we were ready to try an air b&b yet (and were glad we didn’t on langkawi) but a lot of the hotels and resorts don’t have rooms that accommodate us (were also not ready to try separate rooms they aren’t attached) So when I was looking, the Berjaya had a “family” room (which was 2 rooms attached, one with a king bed, one with 2 twins). They “allowed” us to violate the 4 people rule for this room. I also liked the location. Close to the cable car and set on a beach and in the rainforest. The resort itself was a little “meh”. It’s an extremely large resort (you have to take shuttle buses to get back and forth to your chalets). The size means it’s also a little “tired”. But, the beach and pool were lovely, the food was good and wildlife wonderful so despite that, overall our experienced was positive. I’d also add, we are a little jaded. We’ve stayed in some lovely hotels over the years and live in a beautiful resort like condo in Singapore. We’re spoiled and are ruining our children.
Our room was the two balconies on the bottom.
Building sand castles
Finding starfish (Ella was the only one who could spot them on the sand)
The resort is set between a beach and the Machinchang geopark rainforest.
Friday we spent the day enjoying the resort, The pool and the beach. The kids loved both equally and Ryan and I really enjoyed the swim up pool bar with cheap drinks! Beers here cost the same as in Singapore. 15 but instead of S$ it’s Ringitts at a 3:1 (4:1 to the US $). We love that exchange rate!
Being in the rainforest, there were so. Many. Monkeys. There were signs EVERYWHERE at the resort not to feed them. But monkeys are smart. They watch. As soon as food or a bag is unattended, they grab it. This one is a dusky leaf monkey eating a piece of pizza. This is about as close as you can get to them. They are wild. Ryan tried to take a portrait of one and got hissed at. They have sharp looking teeth!
We watched the sunset over the mountain before heading back to the room to clean up for dinner.
Friday night we made probably our biggest goof of the trip. The resort had 5 restaurants. One was a Thai restaurant out on a pier. It looked great. The only reservation they had left was 8:30. We said yes, our kids eat late, they’ll be fine, we thought. Ha! We didn’t take into account the 5:45 wake up and all day playing on the beach and pool. They were a disaster and we were dining with a bunch of honeymooners and people on once in a lifetime trips. On Valentine’s Day. Oops. We muddled through and the lovely staff was afraid we didn’t like our meal and offered us another (this dinner was include with our room). We took our exhausted minions back to the room and plunked them in bed ASAP before we caused and honeymooners to decide to forgo having children!
The next morning Avery and I sat on the balcony and listened to the birds and watched for monkeys. Little did we know what we were wishing for…
This video was later in the morning while we waited for the shuttle (the scooters are the staffs, the buzz around delivering things) Earlier while Avery and I were sitting on the porch the monkeys came. And we watched and the kept coming. Then they were climbing up our building! We ran inside and quickly locked the door! They came onto our porch, tried to open the door. We had our swimsuits out drying on the balcony. One big male picked up my swim coverup and put it on its head! Needless to say that went in the wash. Later that day a local was telling us that the monkeys do that at all the resorts. When they find an open door, they head straight for the mini bar. Smart monkey!

That morning after a giant breakfast (buffet with any food option you want. Western, Indian, Malay, Chinese… the kids and I all had Indian, go figure!) we headed to the oriental village, sky car and sky bridge. I’ll write about our excursions in separate posts as this one would be waaayyyy too long… all of our excursions were amazing on Langkawi. Never once did we feel like something was a waste of time or money! We were able to walk to the village and the sky car from our hotel which was great! We spent from 10am until 2pm there. After that we had to do a quick change to get to our afternoon/evening excursion.

So many beautiful pics from the morning, it’s hard to pick…

We were going on an afternoon/evening sail out of the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club in Kuah. Our concierge was very concerned about “traffic” for us to get there. I guess there was a cycling race going on. We never saw any cyclists and not much traffic other than scooters with lax safety laws. It was interesting seeing the island outside the resort. As with most islands, the locals don’t live like the guests at the resorts. Lots of scooters, simple concrete homes with metal roofs, more monkeys. Also lots of potentially interesting roadside food stands. As we were eating on the boat we didn’t stop, but it would be fun to ride on a scooter and check some out! We also saw schools (the kids were in school on a Sunday, not sure why) and mosques as Malaysia is a Muslim country. The town of Kuah was more “urban” looking with less roadside stands and more restaurants. They even had the ubiquitous American exports, Macdonald’s, Starbucks and 7-11.

I will write about the boat in another blog as well, but it was really a gem. We lucked into being the only passengers on the boat so we had our own cruise on a unique ship. It is a memory for a lifetime. Read about our cruise here: Captain Eva’s cruise on the Damai Indah

Our ride for the evening. The Damai Indah

Exhausted, we got back to the hotel around 9 pm and went right to bed! The next morning we had to be up and ready for our mangrove tour!

Of course we all “slept in” the next morning and had to make a mad dash to be packed up, checked out and have breakfast before the tour picked us up at 8:50. Besides the sky car and sky bridge, on Langkawi a mangrove tour through the kilim geopark is a must do. Our shuttle was us and another couple from our hotel who kept to themselves (might have been because the kids, specifically Avery were CRAZY in the shuttle bus. We realized she had 6 sodas the night before in the all you can drink boat ride. Oops) Along the way we picked up another couple from an air b&b down a dirt road which was right on the beach. So pretty. I was interested but Ryan’s still not sure. He thinks food procuring would be a challenge (remember the roadside food stands? I don’t think he thought they were as interesting as I do, nor does he relish the Malay breakfast of Nasi Lemak… ). they were a nice couple, they live in Europe (I forget where) he’s European and she’s Jamaican. Once we got to the geopark entrance where the boats were kept, we met our guide and away we went! This will get its own entry as well so stay tuned!

Ready for our mangrove tour!

The tour wrapped up around 1:30pm and again was amazing. We headed back to the hotel for more swimming and beaching until our flight at 8pm.

A goodbye mojito for me!
And a mocktail for this guy.
We watched some hornbills flying around the pool.
And terrorized the pool for a while.
Goodbye Berjaya!
Hopped back on our scoot
And arrived home exhausted but happy.

So our first weekend trip was a success. Now all that’s left is to decide if our March trip should be beach or city…. hmmmm.

Today is the day…

Well, I already haven’t been the best at documenting the chaos that has been our life leading up to the move day. There’s only up from here!

We are currently on our way to the airport on a cold and rainy morning to catch our flight to Singapore.

My feelings this morning are bittersweet. Over the past months we have really been focused on the adventure this move will bring to all of our lives. However, the past week, the reality of leaving the town we have lived in for 15 years and the family and friends were have made has been heavy. I know this is just a short 2 years in our lives, but a little piece of my heart broke this morning when we left. When we come home from this journey, we will be different and our friends and family will also be different. My baby niece, Liora will be a big girl the next time I see her in person and she won’t know who I am… my biggest niece Sarah will be taller than me. Hopefully our cat will remember us a little… Those small things and so many more weigh on my mind.

This will go back to being a happy blog documenting our adventure, but it feels right to acknowledge the sadness in leaving our beautiful and full life in Fairfield.

I’ll end with a family selfie we took in the kitchen at 5 am this morning. Next stop, Singapore!