A Recovered Travel Journal of Spain Holiday in May 2011

Imagine this. It took me 8 years to process the photographs I have taken during our family holiday in Spain back in 2011! Again, the results are always very rewarding. It is as though my wife and I get to relive a holiday day-by-day. To see the pictures, check out my photography page.

13 albums in total for our Spain holiday in 2011!

Again, I have managed to recover my travel journal. Unlike the one from Tasmania (see my previous post), this one was handwritten. So, I am trying my best to type out what I wrote, which may not make sense for sentences that I can’t read. My handwriting is notoriously horrible.

Day 1 – May 16 (Mon) – Barcelona to Gran Canaria

Direct flight [from Singapore] to Barcelona. 3 hours transit to Gran Canaria. 24 hours door-to-door [from home to our first stop]! [We rented a car from] Eurocar. Took us a while to get GPS working. [The volume of the navigation was ] very soft.

The hotel was Meliatamarindos by the beach. A nude beach! Dinner at Playa der Inglés and we had tapas. We rested for the day. The sky was still bright at 10pm! Windmills (note: huh?). I have finished reading Wild Sheep Chase [by Murakumi].

Day 2 – May 17 (Tue) – Gran Canaria

08:50 Las Pasadilla

Woke up at seven but since Gran Canaria is one hour behind Madrid so it was still dark outside. And it was too early for breakfast! No wonder the staffs were not too happy.

Roque Nublo – a volcanic rock in the island of Gran Canaria. It was quite a walk up and it took 40 minutes to come down.

10.00 Pico de las Nieves (ball ball, aloe vera car) (note: huh?!)

13:30 Artenara. We had lunch at a restaurant inside a cave!

Tapas: (1) cuera de Molino and (2) morsilla de teror (black in color!).

After lunch, we returned to our hotel and called it a day. We walked by the beach and had paella at a restaurant near our hotel. The waiter was chatty about Android phones!

Day 3 – May 18 (Wed) – Gran Canaria

Woke up at 8am because Cynthia was not feeling well. Breakfast was so full of people. And Cynthia had her tea this time around. Deliberating on where to for our camal ride, we have decided to visit the one at Maspalomas because of the dunes. At Maspalomas, we were approached by three Spanish students. A short survey on where we came from, how long we planned to stay in Gran Canaria, and what we liked about the place. The interviewer was a girl and she spoke in English. My wife replied in Spanish. Both were trying to practice a foreign language.

After our interview, the young boy showed us the way to the camel farm. The ride cost us 12 euro for 30 minutes. The camel behind ours was hallowing in pain. Perhaps because the passengers were large in size and heavy in weight. It was a pretty funny sight in a sad kind of way. Camels are docile animals. It was hard labor for them, unfortunately.

After our camel ride, I took an hour’s walk to the dunes under the sun (note: my wife must have been waiting in a bar or a restaurant avoiding the sun). The weather was lovely. Cool breeze. Some women sunbathed without tops as I got closer to the nude beach.

We had pizza and salad at Maspalomas. After lunch, we drove to Las Palmas. There were many narrow and confusing streets. I did shopping (Zara) and bought two books (boxset) by Mathias Malzieu (the version we saw in Barcelona was in Catalan). We dined at Las Palmas Pollo Kiev. I had a revelation at the diner. Perhaps my purpose in life is to take care of this woman in front of me.

Day 4 – May 19 (Thu) – Gran Canaria

  1. Caldera de Bandama / crater / school kids.
  2. Arucas / cathedral / Mountain de Arucas / lunch / paellas and apple tart.
  3. Cenobio de Valerón / dig site / craters / racing blue car / staring (note: huh?!) food similar to Northern Africa not preparing women for wedding (note: what?!).
  4. Gildar / walk the town.
  5. Agaete / Dedo de dios / raining / lost but saw the cliff.
  6. Back south / Puerto Rico / scenic.
  7. Puerto de Mogán / seafood with wine / best chocolate cake with 3 layers!
  8. Drove in the dark / slept just before midnight.

Day 5 – May 20 (Fri) – Sevilla

What a hard day! Woke up at 5.45am for the 8.45am flight to Sevilla. We miss Gran Sevilla already. Such familiarity. So tourist-friendly compared to Sevilla.

Sevilla is a big city. Roads are complicated outskirt. In town, the roads are unforgivingly narrow … so many traffic lights. Rested a bit in the afternoon. But we managed to tour the palace (7.5 euro). Things are expensive in Sevilla. Parking was 2 euro per hour or 14 euro a day in the hotel. So many cars on the street. Late at night, we walked out to buy bottled water and have resisted the temptation to dine at Burger King. We didn’t feel safe … “The Time is Now” (note: I believe I was referring to a Spanish song).

Day 6 – May 21 (Sat) – Córdoba & Camona

This silly song kept on playing on the road … or that Rihanna song.

I wanna boom bang bang with your body yo
Were gonna rough it up before we take it slow
Girl lemme rock you rock you like a rodeo
(Its gonna be a bumpy ride)

A song by Mohombi

New hotel and no breakfast. It cost 14 euro. What a joke!

Bought pastry at a petrol station. Fuel needle not working. Car smelled like banana cake inside (note: what?!). Dented. Golf VW. Engine stopped at the junction (ps. clutch down to start engine). Rather easy to find parking space in the morning.

Misty. But a clear blue sky in the late morning. The temperature went up from 24-degree C to 35!

Next, drove to Camona. Wedding! Lots of wedding.

BK for lunch. Oxtail/fish for dinner.

Day 7 – May 22 (Sun) – Andalusia Crazy Driving!

  1. Arcos de la Frontera / Cynthia asked the policeman where the church was and the policeman asked the local instead! Lol. Managed to park before the hill up to the church. San Pedro / Santa Maria.
  2. Ubrique / nothing!
  3. Zahara / lake / lunch time / a ruin up the hill but we did not go / driving in the town was tedious enough.
  4. Ronda / city on a cliff / we didn’t park inside / had icecream and coke – 7 euro.
  5. Gibraltar / can see Africa from here / unpaved road / Cynthia has to open the gate! (note: huh?)
  6. Jimena de la Frontera / tried to drive […] / had dinner by the mountain / see the horse!
  7. Took us 2 1/2 hours to return / through the mountain area / small road / pitch dark / not a soul nearby / nearly hit the cows / reached the hotel at 00:40.

Day 8 – May 23 (Mon) – Cádiz

Woke up late (10.30pm). Had coffee at the cafeteria. Cost a fortune. Didn’t take long to drive to Cádiz. 1 1/2 hours. Cynthia missed the pharmacy by 1 minute. 3 hours lunch break. I think I like working in Spain.

Plaster = tirita.

Bought sandwich and ate at the cathedral (windy!). Beer is cheaper than juice. We walked through the beautiful city. One old lady spoke to me in French. Throughout the day, people were very friendly to me. Cynthia wondered why.

Day 10 – May 25 (Wed) – Baeza & Úbeda

Bubble bath with milk?! Think of the number of calfs deprived of milk makes me fizzy (note: the young me did not make sense at all!).

Breakfast at the hotel was a bit costly. But it was a great way to start the day. I am quite excited by the trip. A UNESCO site with lots of history. Baeza is about 1 1/2 hour drive from Granada.

During lunch, we have decided to visit a UNESCO site nearby as well called Úbeda. Úbeda has more life in it.

Not sure why GPS took us back through small roads. We got lost in a town called […] Dinner at the hotel. We just wanted to take things easy.

Day 11 – May 26 (Thu) – Las Alpujarras

  1. Lanjaron / spice town.
  2. Orgiva / Thursday market / parking was insane / millimeter away from hitting the cars on the side.
  3. Capileira / lunch.
  4. Pórtugos.
  5. Trevélez / had coffee and dessert.
  6. Cadier.
  7. Yegen.
  8. Válor / met an old man in a pub and he was with a dog / quarreled with pub owner because he has a dog inside the pub / the old man offered to buy us a drink / he said Spain is not only beautiful but also marvelous.
  9. Puerto De La Ragua / rain / condition of the road was quite poor / electronic road sign that said, “drive with extreme caution” / drove up to a mirador / saw the snow capped mountain (and a caravan).
  10. Guadix / ruin & church / McDonald’s.

Day 12 – May 27 (Fri) – Barcelona

Woke up at 6am. Drove to the airport. If not for Cynthia asking the receptionist, we might have missed a turn. 5 hours it took to reach the hotel in Barcelona. The airport was just so far away. Headed directly to Picasso museum (had Subway lunch). Most of his work in the museum were unsigned and undated. More like work in progress. Next, we headed to Plaza Catalunya. Tons of people protested on government. We shopped and had Hard Rock Cafe for dinner.

Day 13 – May 28 (Sat) – Barcelona

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. We have been there two years ago but it was closed. This time, we got to visit the museum. Spent five hours inside. Most of the artworks are from the local Catalunya artists.

Next, we took a bus to Park Güell. We boarded the bus at the wrong direction. An old woman was kind enough to speak to the driver […]

Park Güell is huge. We took the [momument] path. “Museum” cost 5.50 euro per person. Rather expensive for a two-story house.

Next, back to Plaza Catalunya. Walked through Las Rambla. Had dinner there.

Day 14 – May 29 (Sun) – Barcelona

Woke up ridiculously late. Attended the 1pm Mass because Cynthia so wanted it. Made up of mostly old people. The Mass was in Spanish of course.

May 30 (Sun) – On an SIA plane

Hola! We are back from Spain. Spain again, you may say. Haven’t we visited Spain like 2 years ago? True. But since we have been dipping in and out of the language for three years – to me the word ‘soaking’ would have been a vast exaggeration – touring Spain thus becomes one of our favorite choices. Fortunately, there are lots to see in Spain. This year, we have visited one of the Canaria islands so far off that could well be part of Africa. But they are significant enough to be printed onto the 50 euro banknote. We have also visited the southern part of the country where the territories were lost to the Islamic Moors from Africa and were re-conquered by the Christian Spaniards. Majestic Islamic influenced architecture can still be seen in Spain today. And since we flew direct from Singapore to Barcelona, we have spent some days to cover the points of interests that we would love to see but did not manage to in our last trip. To my avid readers, after failing to visit the museum of Picasso in Barcelona with two attempts in 2009 and the museum of Picasso in Paris in 2010 (under renovation), we have it covered this time. On top of it, we have added three more UNESCO sites to our travel list.

To be totally honest, while I always look forward to a long break, I seldom look forward to the physical demand of traveling in Europe. Maybe I am a lazy traveler. A cruise would have been my ideal holiday. The planning and logistic arrangement of the itinerary and hotel and car, the rather long traveling time – traveling from Singapore to Gran Canaria took 24 hours – getting used to the left-hand driving and to drive through the narrow roads in around the city area and through the mountain (one time at night we nearly banged onto the cows and deers, hiking the mountains, and that heavy photography gear of mine … my body ached throughout the trip. Less so on the second week as my body was conditioned for the physical demand. Having said all of the above, every trip to Europe has always been a rewarding experience – both in the culture and nature departments. I hope to share the journals and the photographs soon. Preferably a faster turnaround compared to our last trip. (note to the 2011 me: it took 8 years in the end).

Spent My Holiday in Sentosa Island

I took leave on a Friday and the following Monday was a public holiday. Naturally, with a four days long break, people would think that I have taken the opportunity to visit overseas. When I replied that I planned to visit Sentosa Island on Friday on my own, they thought I was joking.

I wasn’t.

The merlion looks a bit old.

Most of the time my wife and I take leave together. We would likely end up chilling in our new home. Since my wife had to work on Friday and the weather was nice – not too sunny and no rain – I have decided to take public transport and visit Sentosa Island.

I always end up having a meal and a drink in this bar next to the beach.

Two train stations from my home and I have reached Harbourfront. Directly above the train exit and on the third floor of Vivocity is the monorail station to the island.

I thought of doing Bungee. Maybe next time when my stomach is not so full.

The difference between driving to the island and taking public transport is that when we drive, we tend to visit the area not too far away from where we park (and there ain’t that many parking facilities in the island). Since I was taking a monorail train, I had the opportunity to explore the island.

Those are the stairs I did not take. Instead, I took a lift to the rooftop.
Up at the rooftop is a view around the island.
A lovely bridge that is quite similar to one of those in Mount Faber Park.
The island is full of cannons!
I am not sure if you could call this wildlife. But this one is not shy around people. We were really close to each other!
I wonder if this one is real.

There is an exhibition at the Siloso Breach. A history of Singapore back in the WWII era. The exhibition is well above my expectation. A strong recommendation for those who visit Singapore. The indoor exhibition ‘Surrender Chamber’ is amazing.

In the outdoor, these are engine wreckage from the Japanese warplanes.
There is a tunnel to the gun post.
Yet another cannon.

Leaving Siloso area was a nice walk by the beach followed by a short hike to the Sentosa Imbiah trail.

The cable cars that shuttle people between Harbourfront and Sentosa Island.
There are mozzies in the trail. It is good to bring insect repellants.
Nice artwork.
Did you see a … dragon?

I could have taken a monorail train from Imbiah Station back to Vivocity. Instead, I walked towards the Resort World and took the monorail from Waterfront Station. That concludes my visit.

Those must be hotel rooms.
And I was looking for a bar to quench my thirst.
A bird flew by as I took this picture.
From a distance, there is the Merlion.
Happy Hour at Hardrock Cafe!
What a contrast to other parts of the island, this area was full of visitors.
I had fun. Looking forward to bringing my wife back to Sentosa in the near future!

Are You Happy At Work?

Most of us spend a vast amount of our life working. How many of us are happy at work? Are you doing it day in and day out on a job that you don’t necessarily enjoy but you need to because someone needs to pay the bill?

I have worked for decades. There are moments when I enjoy what I am doing. Majority of the time, I don’t. Looking back in all the years of working, I wish I could put more emphasis on looking for a role that makes me happy at work. Rather than focusing on job security.

Take me as an example. My last role was horrible. My career back then was stagnant. I was not learning and hence, not growing. The team was not supportive. I just did not enjoy my work at all. I left in the end. Never look back.

My current role is very challenging and demanding. Long working hours. Lots of stakeholders. But I enjoy the work. I don’t have anyone that I dislike interacting with on a daily basis (unlike my last role). The only time I feel unhappy at work is when I let myself down, when I knew I could do much better but I did not, and when I felt humiliated by my own mistakes.

But that is a good problem to have. It is not about falling. But how fast one is able to get back up.

The key to happiness at work, I believe, has got to do with the people around you. Are they cooperative? Are they supportive? Are they good people to be with?

And when you are surrounded with good people, naturally, you are happy. Bottom line is, when you are surrounded with not so good people, do yourself a favor, find another job or role and do something else. Life is short. There is no point in dwelling onto the negative vibe.

So I’ve Finally Watched Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour on Netflix

I have been a fan of Taylor Swift since her very first country album – a self-titled album released in 2006. Back in those days, there were listening stations in HMV whereby discovering music was one of my favorite pastimes. That was 13 years ago when she was 16 and I was … let’s not go there.

I have always enjoyed watching Taylor Swift live. Every word seems to be carefully crafted and rehearsed. Every dance and every move down to the very facial expression seems to be meticulously choreographed. My wife was used to find her kind of fake. I see Taylor Swift as someone who puts in lots of hard work to be the perfect performer.

She has a few concert or film recordings.

  1. CMT Crossroads: Taylor Swift and Def Leppard (2009)
  2. Journey to Fearless (2011)
  3. Speak Now World Tour – Live (2011)
  4. The 1989 World Tour Live (2015)
  5. Reputation Stadium Tour (2018)

CMT stands for Country Music Television. I have #1 on DVD. I used to like Def Leppard and I like Taylor Swift. Putting the two together – the old (or legend) and the young, the rock and back-then country – seems like a weird choice. But it works. I love the live performance. I love the interview pieces even more. Taylor Swift received her education from the road as she toured. And it was fun to watch Def Leppard giving her the advice to life.

I do not have #2 but I do have #3 on Blu-ray. She was 22 when the concert was recorded. It was an amazing performance. I struggled to recall what I have accomplished when I was 22. I was one year away from graduating for my Master degree. When I was 22, I debated the existence of alien with my friend over late night study. We had toast with butter and sugar. We would go to bed in the early morning. Our favorite place in college would be the pub. 50 pence for a pint of beer. When Taylor Swift was 22, she had held a concert!

Fast forward to the Reputation Tour, many have changed. She is no longer a young girl but a grown woman. She is no longer the country artist that was introduced to me back in HMV. She embraces different genres of music. At the age of 29, she looks healthy on stage full of energy (you know how some artists these days look really slim and unhealthy). Still the same artist that gave an amazing performance from start to finish. So I have finally watched her Reputation Tour on Netflix. And I am loving it!

Leave Diary D12 – Converting My Car in Singapore from Normal to Off-peak (And It Was Tedious!)

Ever since we have moved to near town, our driving pattern has changed. We don’t drive during the weekdays and we struggle to find reasons to drive during the weekends. It is that convenient to stay in our new apartment.

Yesterday my wife and I hiked at Mount Faber here in Singapore (and it is more like a hill). I overheard one tourist from China commenting something like, “For such a small country, why is there no traffic jam?”

The answer is pretty straightforward. Because cars in Singapore are outrageously expensive. When I bought a new car three years ago, it cost around US$100,000 (with a 10-year car license). It is a regular Japanese salon car with 5 doors and a 2-liter engine. Because we no longer have the need to drive to work, converting my car from a normal car into an off-peak car makes sense. The savings in road tax and from rebate received per year are S$503 and S$2,200 respectively. Should I need to drive during peak hours (7am to 7pm on a non-public holiday), I just need to pay S$20 per day for a day license.

To convert the car into an off-peak car turns out to be a rather tedious process. In order for the authority to tell between a normal car and an off-peak car, off-peak car displays the front and rear number plates in red versus the black color plates. In order to deter people from switching the name plates and to trick the systems – yes, we humans always succumb to temptation since the days of Adam and Eve, figuratively speaking – the authority has derived a system whereby it is almost impossible to switch the plates at will. To do so, a new industry is born. You will see why.

  1. First stop obviously is to visit the Land Transport Authority (LTA). There is only one office in the entire country that processes this sort of request. Administrative cost is S$100. Waiting time was half an hour. I have to submit a form at the counter. The staff at the counter has to call upon an officer inside the office to verify and sign-off the transaction. Very much like most of the offline government services I have seen.
  2. Then, I needed to change my car number plates from black to red. The workshop fortunately was just opposite LTA office and it did not take long to hunt for one.
  3. The cost to create and fit a set of car number plates is $130 (inclusive of a front bracket that my car did not have). Could I do it on the spot? No I could not. I needed to buy two pins from the Inspection Center behind the workshop.
  4. What are the pins for, you may ask? Well, the front pin has to be welded onto the front part of the car. The rear pin pierces through the car door at the back. Once the front pin is secured and the rear pin hole is prepared, the staff at the Inspection Center would secure the pinheads onto the car number plates. Each pinhead comes with an engraved serial number for tracking purposes! The cost to create and fit a set of car number plates is $130 (inclusive of a front bracket that my car did not have). I drove from the workshop to the Inspector Center and bought two pins for S$22.
  5. I returned to the workshop and was told that the process may take up to one hour.
  6. So we had a cold drink at a coffee shop nearby. Today was a very warm day.
  7. The workshop called and yay! We picked up the car and drove to the Inspection Center for “sealing”.
  8. The staff at the Inspection Center took a look at the front pin and has commented that it should have been welded deeper into the car. If he was to put the pinhead now, the car would look ugly as the pinhead would protrude unnecessarily.
  9. I took the car back to the workshop and expressed my ‘personal’ opinion (the staff has asked me not to mention that the comment came from the Inspection Center). The mechanic reworked the welding. It took half an hour.
  10. Finally, I drove the car with the brand new red number plates into the Inspection Center so that the staff can seal the pins with the serialized pinheads (around 1+ cm in diameter and in depth).
  11. Are we done? No! The staff at Inspection Center has to make further inspection and to create more paperwork to ensure that the number plates are secured according to the standard set out by the authority. (As a side story, I saw an Audi R8 sports car thoroughly inspected by the staffs at the Inspection Center and the driver was a young girl whom at first glance I thought she was a boy).
  12. After received the certificate that my number plates are done up to the standard, I took the car back to the workshop so that the mechanic can install the bits and pieces of plastic taken out from the door at the back (remember, a hole was drilled so as to fit the rear pin?). By the time we were home, I was exhausted from the heat and from how tedious the conversion process is. It is indeed an industry on its own.
My wife took this picture at the workshop because she was … bored.