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Vegemite, or Foods to Never Eat Part 1

1 February 2011
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No, we have not made a trip down under since coming to Singapore. We were, however, given the opportunity to try Vegemite while in Bangkok. Being children of the eighties, we couldn’t resist its storied allure*.

I think we can sum up the experience in one word: Don’t.

Seriously. Vegemite was the worst thing I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Awful.

Just terrible.

I truly can’t express how bad it was. It basically tasted like something that you would put in your car to make it run more smoothly. Or possibly use to take the rust off. Or something you would put on toast, call it Nutella and give it to someone you hate. In fact, I like Australia a little bit less after tasting Vegemite. Sorry, Aussies, you never should have unleashed that crap on the world. (Although to be fair, the Brits—in typical English fashion—started this whole mess by developing the antecedent to this abomination when they created a palate-murdering concoction dubbed Marmite. Terrible enough to be considered worthy of export, Marmite found its way to the Kiwis who started making some bastard southern-hemisphere version of it using local ingredients. In a desperate attempt to counter all the Marmite-ism marshaling on their shores, the ever-antagonistic Aussies one-upped everyone by creating Vegemite. Clearly, this is just another negative byproduct of colonialism.)

So I guess this is the first in a series of irregular posts that we’ll call our “anti-foodie diatribe”. Since there are enough food blogs out there about people peeing themselves with excitement over the umamian joys inherent in sautéing the rare mushrooms only found in the blowholes of pygmy sperm whales during mating season in the north Pacific—or some other such nonsense—you can consider this your warning about terrible crap not to eat. Just a little tip from us to you.

You can thank us later.

*As an aside, it wasn’t until about 1996 that I realized the lyrics to that song aren’t, “he just smiled and gave me a bite of his sandwich”. And it wasn’t till last week when I actually tasted Vegemite that I realized that guy in Brussels is clearly an a-hole.

You Were Right, Murray Head

29 January 2011
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We got back from Bangkok late last night. We have many thoughts, but need some time to compose ourselves.

In the meantime, we offer these synthesizer-infused bits of sagacity from the immortal Murray Head.

Man who walk through airport turnstile sideways going to Bangkok.

24 January 2011
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No, seriously, we’re going to the Siamese City of Angels for the next few days. Any suggestions of what to not miss?

Weekend Update 02: Sweet Bali Hai

24 January 2011
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On Wednesday afternoon, we went to Bali, and it’s a damn miracle we came back, it was that good.

Due to some aggressive online searching, we were able to get a great last-minute deal on both flights and a stay at the Conrad Hotel—which is the nicest place we’ll probably ever stay. If Heaven exists on Earth, this might be it.

But to get to Heaven, we had to go through a little Purgatory first.

Our flight to Denpasar (the local Bali airport) was relatively uneventful, with the exception that it was the loudest, most active plane ride of our lives. Despite the fact that nearly everyone on the flight was an adult, it sounded like a seventh grade school field trip, with voices and giggles carrying to a fever pitch and people changing seats like monkeys going after eggs on a Singaporean countertop. But it’s cool; we were going to a tropical island. We were willing to look past it.

Upon arriving at the airport, we made it through the Visa-on-Arrival process and Immigration without incident (c’mon…it’s always potentially a little dicey with Booms involved). In fact, everything was fine till we got to baggage claim.

Upon collecting our bags, we were approached by some very serious and deliberate gentlemen wearing uniforms with official-looking patches on them and name badges dangling from chest pockets. They grabbed our bags and told us to follow them, making sure we had our yellow custom forms fully filled out. They guided us through the x-ray machine, beat us to the other side to retrieve our bags, then hurried us through the Customs desk, all with the tacit approval of the Customs official sitting there. Finally rounding the end of the queue, they pulled up in the corner near one of the money changing desks and, still holding our bags, gestured to the broker with enthusiasm and big smiles. It was then we realized what was going on and we grabbed our bags, proclaiming “no, no” while walking away.

We would like to pause our story to thank the United States Transportation Security Administration for effectively freaking the shit out of us such that we now, to some degree, trust any jackoff in a uniform who approaches us in an airport, lest we be detained without reason and questioned for an undetermined amount of time. And / or deported.

But no, we feel so much safer now, thanks.

Read more…

Weekend Update 01: Around the World in Eight-ish Blocks While Huffing Glue

23 January 2011
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Editor’s Note: I’ve been trying to pull this post together for a while, and as such, it kept growing. It’s a little long, but if you email us, we will provide you with a bookmark to facilitate your digestion of this one. We promise to keep subsequent posts more brief. If you wanna cut to the pictures and see more artsy shots, view ’em on flickr.

We used our first weekend here to explore more deeply the island that will be our home for the next several weeks. We also accidentally got high on glue while playing with a Chinese children’s toy that involves blowing globs of industrial adhesives into big petrochemical soap bubbles. More on that in a minute.

Our adventures began on Friday afternoon, when, during a fierce rainstorm that prevented us from executing our original plan of going downtown, we instead visited the WWII historical museum adjacent to our hosts’ condo complex. Admittedly, our knowledge of the region is lacking, but during the (surprisingly unbiased) tour, we learned:
– Ford Motor Company used to have an assembly plant here, and it is now the site of the Singapore WWII museum and National Archives
– the British did just about everything wrong in anticipating, preparing for, fighting and surrendering to the Japanese when they invaded the supposedly impregnable fortress of Singapore in early 1942
– following the takeover, the island was renamed “Syonan”, which, in Japanese means “Light-of-the-South Island”
– the Japanese and Chinese historically hate each other (apparently aggressive empire-building doesn’t go over well with the locals)
– war crimes were rampant and truly baffling.

Burdened with the weight of our newly-acquired historical knowledge, we sought to brighten our afternoon and relieve our souls. To do this, we figured we’d go to a bar.

Read more…

Aww Hail (or, How to Use the Singaporean Bus System)

22 January 2011
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As we are without a car here on our little island, we have taken to using the public transportation system with vigor. While the subway / light rail system has the El beat on every front, the bus system—touted to be a marvel of ease and modernity—is a bit less than advertised, and certainly not friendly to your average out-of-towner.

The challenges begin before you even reach at the stop, as you generally have to cross several lanes of traffic, all of which is going the wrong way (they drive on the left here…fascists) and at high speeds. And they don’t take too kindly to pedestrians either, even in crosswalks.

Once at the stop, the onus is on you as the traveler to flag down the appropriate bus, as it won’t stop, slow down, or even get in the near lane unless you signal the driver, even if it is a one-route stop.

Side note: We had a mishap earlier in the week when Al was attempting to flag the bus to school: Seeing her bus approaching, she managed to get the driver’s attention, and he signaled, appearing to pull into the bus lane. As she turned to say goodbye to me, however, the bus instead blew through the stop and sped away, much to the enjoyment of the elderly couple sitting at the stop. Apparently, the driver wasn’t convinced that Al was indeed serious about boarding. We now make a concerted effort to attract the bus driver’s attention, which usually ends up with us in a manic sweat and leaves the other travelers at the stop trembling with fear and confusion. We get on the bus every time now, though.

At any rate, assuming you’ve flagged the right bus and managed to get the driver to actually stop, you now enter Phase Two of your journey: figuring out where to get off (and Real Madrid help you if you need to transfer). This is an inordinate challenge because:
a) most buses do not have any indication of what stop you’re approaching (some have an LED crawler reading off the stops, most don’t)
b) the stops do not have any indication of their name that’s visible from the road
c) should the bus have an LED crawler, the stops are named by proximate landmarks versus more concrete things like intersections or cross streets—ya know, something you could figure out from the bus window (examples: “Next to the Shell Station” or “Opposite the LRT” or “Just Before Golden Monument”. These names not only require you to know what the hell the LRT is, and where and what the Golden Monument is (it’s a shopping center next to the Raffles Hospital on North Bridge Road), but it begs the question: what happens if the Shell becomes a BP?). Additionally, these names are not consistent across the various mapping and routing sites you can use to plot your journey. The LRT stop? Sometimes it’s referred to as Little India Station.

Sweet.

The combination of these factors leads to a confusing trip, ultimately forcing the traveler to count stops. This method works great until you get to 10, then you undoubtedly start losing count. Which we have done. As a result, we’ve ended up a couple stops short, and because we don’t know which way the bus route continues (there’s no route map), we end up walking for about 45 minutes until we happen to find the bar in question.

Hooray. We have reached the promised land.

I won’t even get into the routes that skip stops…

Moral of the story: take a cab.

Change of Plans

21 January 2011
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There has been, unfortunately, a change of plans and we will probably have to choose between visiting Vietnam and Cambodia. Anyone who has been to both places – which should we choose? Any thoughts? Please let us know in the comments and thanks for all the help and suggestions so far!