Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Moving to Mars...

Well it's final, after months and months, and after a trip to look n feel... and to smell... A couple of weeks ago the contract was signed for our move to Delhi for 3 years and now the fun begins!!! Fun, did I say? This has to be the least fun we have ever had... The reason this post is called 'Moving to Mars' is because in all honestly I'm sure it would have been easier to train as an astronaut and relocate off to Mars!!

But although our lovely future countrymen might love their paperwork, in duplicate, triplicate, quadruplet, stamped, initialled, blood drawn, DNA taken, great great grandparents inside leg measurements recorded....we are finally getting to the bottom of the list...Sssh perhaps I shouldn't say that... Ok I'll whisper 'we are nearly there' 

Medicals completed, visas waiting approval, insurances sorted (after a brief scare as the doctor ticked yes instead of no!!) appartment sorted (can't wait for our g&t's on our new balcony, at sundown, overlooking the trees of the tiny town park) UK house rented, removals booked albeit after hubby has already started in India and the most expensive dog on the planet has been chipped, injected, photographed, weighed, measured and passport procured. Yes for our next adventure our much loved vintage 16 year old spoilt pooch Oscar will be joining us and he seems to have his own fan club already! 

So it seems Singapore Tales is coming to a hiatus as we relocate, although we're hoping to visit in a few months time, flights from Delhi to Changi have already been researched. Singapore will always hold a immense part of my heart and my new country has a lot to live up, but I'm up for challenge and look forward to opening up my mind and eyes to the new experiences and sights of this massive country. 18,248,290 people in Delhi alone!!! 

Saturday, 12 September 2015

4 Weeks back in Blighty!

Well it's been 4 weeks now since we arrived back in the UK. Our life is still on a container sailing from one small red dot towards this island and is due to dock on the 20th. In the past weeks our eldest has moved into his new house and our daughter is moving in with her boyfriend in the next couple of weeks, so life is still changing at a rapid pace. One piece of stability that hasn't changed is returning to our dog Oscar, albeit at 17 a much older, slower and deafer bundle of fur than we said goodbye to 2 1/2 years ago, but the same could be said of me!
We've busied ourselves decorating the whole of the house whilst it's empty, still sleeping in sleeping bags although we had a mattress delivered as quickly as possible! The jungle of our garden has been hacked back and once the house is complete we'll start work on that, no snakes, monkeys, or lizards found in this jungle though!
We're still not sure of our long term plans yet although things are in the pipeline, but when the decorating and weather allows we're out enjoying the British Autumnal countryside and all its berries and goodies. 

So that's what I've been up to in the last month. I haven't forgotten the blog, but havent quite worked out how it will evolve yet. Ideas welcome 😃

So for now here's a quick 10 pros and 10 cons of first impressions of being back in the UK. No offense to either country, feelings, thoughts and views are purely personal 


1. People say hello
2. The cold tap water is cold
3. Autumn goodies on the trees 

4. Clean air
5. Family, friends and dog, so good to renew home relationships 
6. Cheap alcohol!!!
7. Fresh affordable tasty vegetables
8. So peaceful 
9. Proper bread!
10. Walking the dog!


1.Money feels dirty and cumbersome
2. So cold!
3. Actually miss sweating!
4. Plan a day and don't need to worry weather wise
5. Miss my friends.

6. Miss the wildlife

7. Miss the east coast sunrise and morning walks 

8. Putting weight on due to the good bread! cheap food!  the cold and not as much exercising 
9. Expensive public transport 
10. Missing my Friday Walks with the ladies

Just a quick hello from me, all written on my phone. It'll be great to finally get our shipment and unpack, but we will see for how long...

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Syonan Jinja

This visit has got to rate pretty much top of all the places I have visited and explored here, what an experience! it has to sit right up there with Istana Woodneuk and the Jin Dong Fu festivities, for experiences never to be forgotten, here in Singapore. I don't think I stopped smiling the whole time. Having said that I don't think I have ever sweated as much either, by the time we had 'discovered' the site I looked like I had gone for a shower fully dressed!

I had long wanted to discover Syonan Jinja, I even knew where the tracks were leading off to it, but just wasn't confident enough to explore on my own. A few people I knew, who had found it, they themselves weren't confident they could locate it again without a guide. Anyway a few months ago, after chatting with a Facebook friend, the opportunity arose for a group of us to set out, as a few had been there before. So before dawn on a weekend morning, I waited for the bus I needed to catch, to meet my long suffering friend and we joined a great group of people to discover this Japanese Shinto shrine. I had bade hubby off in the morning with 'I'm off to meet a complete group of strangers to get lost in the jungle! See you later!!! Not that unsurprisingly we were spotted easily as we were the only Westerners, not withstanding the only western women there! We were made incredibly welcome and got to meet people we had only seen online. 

I was pleased to see that we followed the trek I had thought was correct and although we had to walk single file it didn't seemed to difficult a route. Just look out for the coloured tape or arrows etched on trees or indeed upturned plastic bottles on sticks (something we later failed to do!)  ok we may have had to duck down as we entered tunnels of foliage, clambered over fallen trees and even detour around a massive fallen tree, walking over spongy leaves and plants, trying not to trip over vines or even walk into over hanging vines strung as washing lines across the path, or not take out the persons eye behind us with pinging leaves and branches, but all was good. Now it should of taken only a couple of hours to reach our destination but somewhere we lost the path! How? Well we are rather off piste in the rainforest, no manicured signposted paths that SIngapore so likes here. What happened was we missed that upturned water bottle and failed to turn right! In fact this made the exploration, for me, much more real and exhilarating. Thanks to our super guides that had been previously and also GPS with the coordinates we treked on, through the rainforest, making our own route. Even standing on what seemed a solid large fallen tree only for it to silently sigh and disintegrate as my foot stepped on it. I will admit to being tired, I can certainly see how people could easily get lost in a true thick rainforest, but in all honestly we were close to paths and civilization all the time, after all Singapore isn't that large, but we certainly felt cut off from the world - bliss. At one point we heard calling and came across another group of Trekkers (from a local school getting ready for an expedition to Mt Kinabalu) they were also 'misplaced' but found their way to our voices and they joined us to our goal. 

Eventually we found our shrine and arrived at the time the trek was in fact due to end. Tired, dripping in sweat but totally exhilarated we had achieved our goal. Deep in the heart of the undergrowth we had 4G phone signal!!!! I texted hubby to say I'd be late back!

Although destroyed by the Japanese when they surrendered and then the British having a second attempt at obliterating the site, remnants still remain. Footings of buildings, steps leading up from Macritchie reservoir where once a bridge crossed, the old pump house, round stones, looking like large Chinese coins which probably held the wooden pillars holding the roof up, but most special of all the enormous stone trough/font known as a chozuya, which would have been used for purifying oneself before entering the shrine, as well as being used in ceremonies and rituals. Myth has it that there is treasure hidden beneath it! 

Syonan Jinja (Yasukuni shrine) is a Japanese Shinto shrine built by 2,000 POWs from the nearby Sime Road Camp, many of those were then sent to build the notorious 'death railway' during the Occupation of Singapore. Started in April 1942, the foundation stone was laid by Commander in Chief of the Japanese in Singapore Tomoyuki Yamashita on 7 May 1942. A ceremony was held slightly later on 30 July 1942 for the completion of the framework before it was officially opened on 15 February 1942, on the first anniversary of the Japanese Occupation. The Japanese had renamed Singapore Syonan, meaning Island of the light of the South. Jinja is a Shinto shrine therefore why it is known as Syonan Jinja (Singapores Shinto shrine) It was dedicated to Amaterasu- Omi Kami, a major Japanese deity, the Goddess of the Sun and Universe (the August God) 

In 2002 the National Heritage Board gave it historical Site status, but officially the site has no access, although it was surprising how many people we met, from the lone jogger to other shrine hunters. There was reportedly discussions had in the 1990s about rebuilding it but it was thought too sensitive. After all look what is reported on the news when anyone visits the Yasukuni shrine in Japan. The Japanese still refuses to apologize, which upsets South Korea and China. Singapore likes to keep on good relations with everyone :) On a side note I found out the other week that there was once a Shinto shrine on Mount Emily which is the site now of the Christian Assembly Hall. 

The shrine was built to commemorate the Japanese who died both in Singapore and throughout Malaya, as it was then. The Japanese in fact also built a cross behind the shrine in remembrance of the Allied fatalities, but nothing remains now of this. As mentioned after they surrendered all was destroyed along with other shrines, including the one at Bukit Batok and any remains were reinterred at the Japanese Cemetery (http://www.singaporetales.co.uk/2015/06/japanese-cemetery-park.html

There were grand plans for the shrine and its area. A bridge 'The Divine Bridge' was built crossing the reservoir (remains can still be seen now when the water is low) crossing from what is now the golf course, once Sime Camp. From the Divine Bridge you would of walked through the grand Tori Gate walking up steps as you entered through up to Syonan Jinja. What is now rainforest smothering and hiding any remains was once a beautiful Japanese garden. The primary rainforest had been cleared and the whole area was meant to become a public recreation area, with swimming pools and bandstands. It had even be planned to hold the Greater East Asiatic Olympic Games there. 

However this never came to pass. When the Japanese surrendered, they burnt it to the ground so as the British wouldn't  desecrate what for them was sacred. The act of burning was intended to purify. The British then further destroyed it so all that is left today is what, if you are very lucky to find, are the few remains now hidden by thick vegetation, the rainforest taking back its land.

For me this really was one of the outstanding experiences of my time here in Singapore - still smiling

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Changi - Black & Whites

OK, so after months writing about visiting the Black and White colonial bungalows here this is, the final in the series I intend to cover. However they are many more Black and Whites that you can visit, either lone grandiose homes or more along tree lined roads, for example Nassim Hill, those around the Turf Club or even those on Mountbatten. So get out there and spot them :)

Today we visit probably, for me the one place in Singapore I had heard about before moving here - Changi, my father having had to whitewash coal there as a punishment during his stay here when in the Royal Marines!

Fortress Changi, as it's known as, was once a sago and coconut plantations situated in swampy ground, home to a few kampongs. In the 1920s with the build up of tensions in this part of the world, building first started here as the thoughts were any invasion would come from the East, how wrong they were! The Artillery Base was here from 1927-42 and after the Japanese Occupation it became RAF Changi until 1971 when the British left and the SAF took over. 

The area takes in 3 hills, Fairy Point Hill, Battery Hill and Temple Hill (where once a Chinese temple was situated) surrounded by swamp lands and attap homes it took 3 years to clear and build. There was also Changi railway which ran to the coast and to Changi pier bringing building materials from the quarries on Pulau Ubin.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s building ceased but resumed afterwards with completion in 1941. Although the road names are of British RAF Stations these were roads were actually renamed so after World War II. 

There are a vast array of buildings here of various sizes, from married quarters, barrack blocks, offices, clubhouses, messes, a hospital and even a university amongst many others. A large amount were demolished however many have now been taken over by large companies, banks, hotels etc and renovations are taking place at a great pace. It's good to see the area being cared for. 

Now turned into a swanky hotel

The large buildings on Biggin Hill were used for Changi university which was founded in 1942 and is now a nursing home.

The university now a nursing home.

Many of the buildings here being built later, than the traditional civil service black and white bungalows, are modern Art Deco, utilitarian, with flat roofs, simpler in design albeit with open verandas running along the outside. 

Modernized and now holiday chalets

The entrance to Changi Village Estate

The empty and supposedly haunted Changi hospital
The hospital now undergoing renovation and asbestos removal 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Adam Park - Black & Whites

This has to be one of the most modern archaeologically treasure troves in Singapore. This and the surrounding area saw some of the most ferocious fighting between the Japanese and allied forces in February in a short few days before the surrender to the Japanese. So much history surrounds this area that a book could be written on it, and indeed some have been. So i'm not even going to attempt to try and cover it all, or any where near it! If you're interested you can read up and research and if you're really lucky you can even take part looking for wartime artifacts with the experts. Friends I know have been fortunate enough too. 

This post will briefly cover the 2 collections of Black and Whites sitting either side of the PIE. Adam Drive and Adam Park. 

Adam Drive

Sitting between the expressway of the PIE on one side with the Singapore Island Country Club and golf course on the other is Adam Drive. The bungalows you see sit on what was Sime Road Camp. Originally World War II Headquarters and camp used by the British and then taken over by the Japanese and used as a POW Camp. For more information take a look at the following http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/humanities/research/archaeologyresearch/battlefieldarchaeology/centreprojects/singaporewwiiproject/
As a I said you can imagine all the stories and history within this small area.

Many of the Black and Whites here are smaller, homelier and more comfortably sized homes compared to some of the 'mansions' we've already visited here in Singapore. They are set still in beautifully wooded surrounding, with wildlife as your nearest neighbours. Monkeys are a common sight as are snakes and if you're really lucky you may even see a flying lemur (colugo) or even a pangolin.

The current homes sit on the bases which were built pre war, but never finished, so these houses are built post war. Quite modern homes in fact. 

The POWs, both British and Australian in the Sime road camp were put to work building the Shinto shrine in Macritchie (see future blog post) This was to commemorate the Japanese casualties. Many of the POWs were then sent out of Singapore to work and sadly, for too many, die, building the Thai-Burmese Railway.

Crossing over the extremely busy PIE and you next come to Adam Park. 

Adam Park 

Adam Park, as with Adam Drive, is steeped in World War II history and artifacts can still easily be found, discarded ammo, and military finds scattered amongst the gardens of these homes, which are larger than their neighbours of Adam Drive. The whole area is the site of the bitter final battle on the last few days before the British surrendered on 14 February 1942. 

These homes were used to house POWs, with some housing up to 250 men in just one house! One home was known to have been used as a chapel by the POWs, something Jon Cooper has been hunting for (Adam Park Project  https://www.facebook.com/AdamParkProject

On this estate sits 29 houses. As you enter from the roadside the first home you come to, sitting on a small rise is no.7. This was the Cambridgeshire Regiments Headquarters. In later years it was to become The Guild House used by the NUS (National University of Singapore) Society. It now however sits empty with it possibly being used as a museum of the area. 


It sad to see so many of these houses standing empty.........