Location: Sydney, Australia
Day 79 and 80 - Concert at opera house, and returning home
The highlight of Friday was the most fabulous concert at the Sydney Opera House. The performance was by the Australian World Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. The program started with Debussy Prelude to the afternoon of a faun). The second work was also Debussy - Forgotten songs for mezzo-soprano, orchestrated by Brett Dean (who was also playing in the orchestra). After interval, was Symphony number 8 by Bruckner. Simon Rattle says 'Brucknerheads of the world unite over the idea of the eighth as providing the ultimate Bruckner fix, opening the doors to heightened sensory awareness.' We and the rest of the audience, were totally blown away by the variety of tone and volume, and energy that the musicians put into the performance. Two of the string players managed to break a string while they were playing, and had to sneak off stage during the performance to replace the string, then sneak back in and resume playing.
It was the most exhilarating concert and at the end, the audience gave the performers a standing ovation, lots of foot stamping and cheering, and lots of streamers were thrown over the stage, covering all the performers. It was such a great way for us to officially finish our holiday.
Today (Saturday) we made our way back home on the bus from Sydney. It was a very comfortable trip. We are now back in our home, and it is nice to be back. We will have to wash all our own sheets and towels now, which is quite a change from people doing it for us for the last 11 weeks! You very easily get spoiled.
Till the next time we go away, that's it for now.
Location: Sydney, Australia
Day 78 - our day in Sydney
Today's momentous experience was to get the cast off my arm! It is good to be free of it. Of course, now that it is off, and I haven't used my muscles for 7 weeks, my arm is very weak and every movement hurts. I have to do lots of stretching to strengthen the muscles and get my strength back. If I haven't made much improvement by Monday, the hospital suggested physio. Anyway, I will get there sooner or later! I can use my arm as an excuse to get out of doing housework and gardening for a while!
The hospital we went to was Sydney Hospital and Sydney Eye Hospital, in Macquarie street. It is in very quaint buildings and had a sign saying that it was the first hospital in Sydney, and was established in 1788.
The hospital is just opposite The Domain park so we had a lovely walk through the park. We found a cafe there and sat down for a much needed cup of tea.
Later, we walked through Martin Place, where the horrible siege happened earlier this year. It was very sobering to walk past the cafe where the events occurred.
This afternoon we didn't do much, but we are now in a bar having a well earned drink!
More news from Sydney to come.
Location: Sydney , Australia
Day 77 - Back to Sydney
We left Singapore at 7:30 this morning and got to Sydney at about 16:45. Very civilised time to arrive, as we were awake and not feeling crap, arriving at 6am. We flew on a 777-200ER.
We had a wonderfully quick exit out of the airport - a direct contrast to the horrible queues we experienced when we left Sydney. We caught the train to Central, and got to our hotel about 18:40.
Tonight we are having drinks in a bar around the corner from our hotel, then we thought we would have a bite to eat at the Vietnamese restaurant next door to the bar.
Our trip has been absolutely wonderful, but it isn't over yet! We don't get home until Saturday afternoon.
More news to come.
Location: Singapore, Singapore
Day 76 - Our last day in Singapore
Today we didn't really do that much. We have been to Singapore quite a number of times over the years, and have seen a lot of the sights. There are more things we could see but we decided to save them for next time. I was getting rather uncomfortable under the cast on my arm, with the relentless heat we have had for weeks now. Therefore we decided to minimise the amount of time we spend in the heat today. I am sure I have a heat rash and I would like it to go away before I front up at the hospital on Thursday to get the cast off. (Fortunately the heat was less oppressive today - still hot but less humidity). I can't wait to put a jumper on!!! (I have said to Rob that next time we go overseas we will do it in the European winter!)
After having a slow start, we headed into town by train. We hunted down a particular food court that we really liked when we visited a couple of years ago. We had lunch there, then bought a few provisions from a supermarket for a snack tonight.
Tomorrow we head back to Sydney. For the first time, we are travelling on a day time flight, leaving at 7:05 am. We will curse at having to get up so early tomorrow morning, but it is heaps better than sitting on the plane all night and getting into Sydney at about 6 am.
More news from Sydney.
Location: Singapore, Singapore
Day 75 - Back to Singapore
Today we were booked on a Silkair flight from KL to Singapore, leaving at 12:00. Early this morning we received a text message advising that our flight had been delayed by two hours! We didn't receive a confirmation email, so we checked the websites for the airline and the airport and they didn't show any delays. We decided to still head out to the airport at the time we had planned, just in case the text was an error of some kind.
We got the express train to the airport. It is a very comfortable trip indeed. When we went to the checkin counter to get our boarding passes (we had already checked in online) the lady advised us of the delay and said she could get us onto the earlier flight at 11:10!! (we saw this flight displayed on the board and thought it was far too late to catch that one. It was 10:40 by this stage, so I asked whether our bags would make it to the flight. The lady assured me that they would. We got the red carpet treatment after getting our boarding passes. The lady took us to the oversize baggage counter to deposit the bags for fast tracking (our bags were not oversize, but this is where priority luggage is handled. She escorted us to Immigration and took us through the priority line. She then escorted us to security and got us through straight away. We all hopped on a driverless train to the departure gates, and the lady accompanied us to the gate and took us to the aircraft door, and bid us farewell. It was 11.10 by this stage. We got on, sat down and a few minutes later the plane departed (Boeing 737-800). We have never had such a fast and smooth experience at an airport before! The whole process took half an hour!!
Upon arrival in Singapore we walked from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 and checked into our hotel. After getting ourselves organised, we set off for a bite of lunch. It was about 3.30 by this stage! We has planned to head into the city but decided to stay at the airport to eat. There is a great food court in the basement of terminal 3 and the prices are on a par with those in the city. We haven't ventured outside today so have stayed in the cool. Tomorrow we will go on the train and do a bit more exploring on our last day here.
One of the first things we do when we get to our hotel room, is check that the TV remote works. We have experienced so many TV remotes that have flat batteries, and therefore don't work. We struck one of those today, so had to put in a service call. Why don't the service people check these things regularly, instead of leaving it up to the customer to report it? It is the same with light globes!
Anyway, we will have a relaxing evening before our last day here.
More news tomorrow.
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Day 74 - Our last day in KL
(See photos at the link on the right)
Today we had two missions in mind, which were to visit the Islamic Arts Museum, and the National Mosque.
We caught the train to the old historic Kuala Lumpur station that we visited a couple of days ago. (We have included a photo showing part of the exterior). In its heyday it must have been the most magnificent station.
We walked from there to the Islamic Arts Museum. The Museum has 12 main galleries which are classified according to the types of artefacts. These include the Quran and Manuscripts Gallery, the Islamic Architecture Gallery, the India Gallery, the Chinese Gallery, the Ancient Malay Gallery and displays of jewellery, textile, arms and armour, ceramics as well as ancient Islamic glassware.
There was a special exhibition depicting Ramadan photos from over 60 countries, which was very interesting. This exhibition was an international photography competition to capture the spirit of Ramadan. This was a real highlight for us.
We particularly enjoyed the displays of the Quran. The scripts and calligraphy were amazing. We also enjoyed the architecture display which had scale models of mosques in different countries around the world.
The Museum was opened in December 1998. It was established in response to the rapid growth of interest in Islamic art.
The National Mosque of Malaysia was built in 1965 and has a capacity of 15,000 people. The original structure was designed by a three-person team from the Public Works Department: UK architect Howard Ashley, and Malaysians Hisham Albakri and Baharuddin Kassim. The mosque was built on the site of a church, the Venning Road Brethren Gospel Hall, which had stood there since 1922 but was appropriated by the Malaysian government.
The mosque is constructed in reinforced concrete, and has a 73 metre high minaret and a 16 pointed star concrete main roof. The minaret has a cap which looks like a closed umbrella and the main roof looks like an open umbrella. (The umbrella being synonymous with the tropics).
We tried to visit the mosque and it was only open to Muslims today, so we contented ourselves with the outside. We tried to get a photo and it was quite difficult, but we have included it to give you an idea.
Today we decided we had better not knock ourselves out too much in the heat, and spent the rest of the day in the cool.
Tomorrow we fly back to Singapore for a couple of days.
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Day 73 - Mosques and other things in KL
(See photos at the link on the right)
Today was so humid after last night's storm. It was tough going, walking around without looking like we hadn't bothered drying ourselves after showering!
We started by heading off to see the mosque that we couldn't get into yesterday - Masjid Jamek (the Jamek Mosque). It was built in 1909 and is one of the oldest mosques in KL. It was really difficult to get a photo of the outside because there is so much construction work going on all around it. We finally managed to get a decent shot when we walked over a bridge. To visit the mosque we walked through the gate and went to an area where you signed in. The man checked everyone out to make sure they were appropriately dressed. I was fine because I was pretty much covered all over and I had a scarf to put on my head. Rob was also fine. There was a group of people there, who didn't have the right clothes on. The ladies were given robes with hoods to put on over their shorts and tank tops etc, and the men were given long skirts to put on over their shorts!
We couldn't access the whole mosque, but it was good that we were allowed inside.
We walked from the mosque to Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka). The square was formerly known as Selangor Padang Field. Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) is the place where Malaysia's independence was proclaimed on 31st August 1957. It is a large square surrounded by historical buildings and has a 100m flagpole which is one of the tallest in the world. The Malayan flag was hoisted on 31st August 1957, signifying independence of the country. The most wonderful building we saw near the square was the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, built between 1894 and 1897. It features a 41 metre high clock tower, arched collonades and copper domes.
Opposite the square is St Mary's Cathedral, built in 1894. It is the first brick church in the Federated Malay States and is also one of the oldest Anglican churches in the region. It is described as being a fine example of early English Gothic style revived in the 19th century. Rob calls it a British colonial style!
By this stage, we were hot and bothered so we caught the train to the big KLCC shopping complex at the Petronas Twin Towers, where we could get a great lunch in the food court for next to nothing, and some air conditioning! My forearm has been getting quite a lot of baking and steaming under the cast for weeks now. I am now starting to count down the days to when I can get the darn thing off!!!
After lunch we set out to search for a mosque near the towers (Masjid As Syakirin) which was originally built for Petronas staff in 1999. It wasn't easy to get to it, as we had to do lengthy detours around the building works. It looks rather like a space ship with a big dome. It was again very difficult to get photos of the outside.
When we left the mosque we had hoped to find a better vantage point to take a photo but a storm suddenly set in so we scurried back into the shopping complex for shelter.
There is a beautiful park at the back of the Petronas Towers. It was quite an oasis in the midst of tall buildings, traffic and major building works.
Whilst on the subject of the Petronas Towers again; the construction is largely of reinforced concrete with a steel and glass facade designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic architecture. We thought it was worth noting this, because we have been looking at mosques and their architecture.
More news from KL tomorrow.
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Day 72 - KL temples and other things
Last night we had a different experience. The hot tap in the bathroom basin played silly buggers and Rob couldn't manage to turn it off. He fiddled about for a while and managed to turn it off eventually (thankfully). It was a lever tap and finished up facing the wrong direction for the off position. We didn't want to report it to Reception last night because we were in our jarmies and didn't feel like having plumbers visit while we were looking so fetching! We decided to report it this morning and avoided using it for the rest of the night. When we reported it. they said they would have it repaired while we were out for the day. We came back this afternoon and it looked like someone had fixed the tap. However, after turning it on a couple of times, it wouldn't turn off and we had the hot water going full bore! I reported it immediately and Reception were very apologetic. After about 20 minutes, a bloke turned up to repair it. I saw him hammering and putting plumbers tape around the connection. He put it back together and all seems fine now (fingers crossed)! A manager subsequently rang us and profusely apologised and said he would send up a bottle of wine to our room. That's nice of them! They had been told that the tap had been fixed this morning. I later saw a card in the room, advising it had been fixed at 11.45. What this morning's plumber did, who knows! We are out of our room at the moment, so it will be interesting to see if the bottle of wine is there when we get back!
P.S we are now back in our room and there is a huge ice bucket with a bottle of NZ Sav Blanc sitting in the ice!!
Anyway, back to today's adventures. (See photos at the link on the right).
We went off to China Town to see some temples and look around the markets etc. The first temple was the highlight for us. It was very ornate indeed. There were lots of people there, and it seemed like there was a service going on. There were people congregated in the centre of the temple and a lady was chanting. Other people were milling about. There were people sitting with drums and a large curved wooden instrument. We wondered if they would play, but they didn't, so we moved onto the next temple. We have included photos of the temples we saw. They were all interesting, but the first one was the best. We tried to see a mosque but it was closed to visitors today. We hope we can get back there another day.
China Town streets were lined with stalls selling all kinds of goods. There were also various little eateries and the Central Market in a historic building.
We went to China Town by train this morning and got off at Kuala Lumpur station, which is very historic. Unfortunately it is also very shabby and not very welcoming. We decided to visit the toilets but I didn't use them, because they were all the Asian squat toilets. There is no way I could squat and get up again! (Plus the cleanliness of the toilets left a lot to be desired). Rob said that in men's toilets the taps in the wash trough were running full bore! (Just like at our hotel)!
Walking through the streets was a bit hazardous because there was so much uneven paving everywhere and broken bits of pavement. We have become so conscious of this, ever since I fell over in Innsbruck. We tread very carefully everywhere now.
Another storm is setting in now, and the views over KL are rapidly disappearing behind a sheet of grey mist. There is lots of lightning going on!
More news from KL tomorrow!