Country #5

We’re sooooo tired, so we’re summing the last few days up by naming a couple of facts that struck us.


– Flying from Singapore (30 ˚C) to Melbourne (38 ˚C 2 days ago), apparently inspired the cabin crew to play Sinatra’s ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow’ in the plane. And to put up some naff X-mas decorations.

– In our incredibly luxurious and roomy hotel in Singapore (Orchid Country Club) the only not so luxurious and even narrow thing was… the bed. And wifi cost dearly.

– When you’re 1,5 years old, and your parents let you choose a cuddly proboscis monkey toy in the Singapore Zoo shop, the best place to grab it and never let go is its nose.

– 11 pm is not a good time to visit Changi’s marvellous butterfly garden – as we realised when we saw all the butterflies fast asleep with folded wings when we got there.

– Changi’s got +10 from Matt & Kim for playing areas. Many tears were shed when we dragged them to the gate.

– Don’t go looking for Aldi’s in Melbourne in the Aldi Shop Finder. We passed 3 on our way to the ‘most nearby’ this afternoon.

– The Hague is not the only place where the wind can blow ferociously, we realise as we speak, huddled in Nick & Katrina’s cosy bedroom in Melbourne.

– 10 pm is not a good time for a sleep deprived person to work on their blog. So… goodnight and see you later!

Location:Melbourne, Australia

Aircon as a status symbol

In East-European countries and Russian republic it is apparently a status symbol if you can turn up your central heating system up to ‘ boiling hot’, when outside icicles as big as Roman pillars grow from the rain gutter. I came to experience that in Southeast Asia it’s the other way round: when outside it’s too hot for even the cicades to chirp, the aircon is set to somewhere between 16 and 18 ˚C. I remember a train trip from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore once, when inside the train it was so cold that every passenger had to wrap himself into coats, towels and every long sleeved and legged piece of clothing they had in their luggage to keep warm. Outside, it was 34 ˚C.

I realise now that it’s not like that all over Southeast Asia – it’s mainly in Malaysia and Singapore that your importance and wealth is measured by how low you dare to set the temperature in whatever it is that you direct the temperature of. To my utter relief the Vietnamese seem to have chosen the number of times you can honk the horn of your motorbike and/or car in one minute as a way to express the status they think they deserve (after all, it is a communist based society, so the Vietnamese make out their own status), instead of the settings of their aircon. That saves us having to remember to pack a considerable pile of warm winter woolies every time we set foot in a train or bus. I hope we won’t forget that We Are Not In Vietnam Any More once we take the overnight train from KL to Singapore again, at the end of November.


However, as a far too spoilt Westener that has no experience whatsoever with living in a country where people don’t go ‘wow!’ and wipe our brows every other minute when the outside temperature rises to the level that we just don’t feel ridiculous any more to plug in the electric fan, I of course do have something to complain about the aircon in the overnight trains in Vietnam. I’ve been in three now, and in every single one of them, the temperature in our carriage started off at varied 18 ˚C, rose to somewhat 25, plummeted back to 18 again, and settles finally, a few hours before waking up, at a quite comfortable 23.

Tomorrow, we’ll be ont the night train from Hue to Hanoi, and at the end of next week in the night train from Bangkok to the south of Thailand. We will keep you informed about our temperature adventures.

Location:Hue

Finally there!

Yes: we’ve made it! We actually survived the flight surprisingly well, considering that the kids (and therefore us) hardly slept, and in any case not simultaneously.

But never mind that, we’re in Singapore now, we don’t have to make any more of those terribly long flights until January, and that’s all that counts! And of course the spectaculair sea view from our room on the 17th floor. Mercifully for the kids, it’s got ceiling-to-floor windows, so Kim has been stamping greasy little finger- and noseprints all over them. Matthijs is especially smitten with the large pool, and doesn’t agree at all with the hotel rule that you can’t go into the pool in a thunder storm. He thinks that if you don’t understand the physics rule of ‘don’t mix electricity with water’, it doesn’t apply.

Meanwhile, we hardly saw anything from Singapore yet: our hotel is miles from any MRT-station, and we are still trying to find a rhythm that works for all of us. Matthijs doesn’t mind, as long as he can go into the pool, and Kim doesn’t mind either, as long as she can do and have what we do and have.

So I suppose everything will work out, as long as we follow a few basic rules:
1. Don’t try to have a western breakfast in a non-western place.
2. Singapore may seem quite western for Asian standards, but really loses that thin exterior if you’re trying to have a western breakfast, so don’t forget that.
3. You don’t have to have a western breakfast for the sake of your kids. See the picture below, taken when we had the common sense to enter a hawker’s center instead of a place that claims to have western food but really hasn’t.
4. Always bring an umbrella when you go out in Singapore.

Never mind: the bags are already packed again for the next leg of our trip: our flight to Hanoi. See you there!

PS Whoever thinks that it is comfortable to have the airco set to 15 degrees when it’s 30 outside, should be forced to travel in shorts and a tank top in a thus airconditioned train from Singapore to Bangkok.

Location:Singapore