Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer holiday fun - 1

1. Planned our away days. We book ended our month of June with a holiday to Kota Kinabalu at the beginning and a trip to Hong Kong next week. We are incredibly lucky to be able to do this. 

2. In this in-between two weeks we are prepping for a massive birthday party for someone who is turning FOUR in July. FOUR. I'm not sure how we got to four but here we are. And apparently the simplicity of last years party of 8 kids tamely painting birdhouses and canvas handprints cannot be repeated. 

3. My nephew had a full blown superhero party in February. Ever since this is the conversation on lather-rinse-repeat at our house:
3 year old: is it my birthday yet/ today?
Me/ V: Not yet/ today. It's in July.
3 year old: Is it July yet/ today?

4. So 45 invitations have gone out - it is a train/ Thomas themed party and after devouring pintrest I had tickets printed up. About 25 yes-es I imagine as its international school vacations and many of his classmates (local timetable so back to school on the 1st of July) will still be on holiday with their siblings. 

5. We are wisely spending our time making props and games and thank you tags. Two pictures to give you a flavour of our days:

These are a set of solid wooden trains made by somebody's dad for him as a child. After his own kids played with and outgrew them he sold me the lot for $10. They were a bit run down and had a few chips, but essentially in brilliant vintage condition. We acrylic painted them one morning and they look fabulous. Prop for table.

This is a Troublesome Truck (for those unfamiliar with Thomas and his many many friends). It's a printer box donated by a friend, top flaps cut off and the whole thing painted grey. We loved making grey by mixing vast quantities of black and white - not grey enough, too dark and just right. Made the face with paper, stuck on googly eyes and a lick of black paint while Kid was occupied in the next project. Wheels still being sorted out. Game involving lumps of tissue coal.

So far, so much fun.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

North Borneo Railway

This is for M, who googles to check if I wrote anything:

Today was a day of two halves but I'm going to focus on the first half. While I am happy to lounge by the pool and walk on the beach and eat towering banana sundaes, those days of simply 'doing nothing' are far far behind us. Now we need to factor in the interests of our young man - and his main interest is trains. When Kota Kinabalu was just on a list of possible vacation spots and I was looking up the possible things to do here, I found the North Borneo train ride. The perfect fit for my train crazy child.

It runs twice a week, this dramatic steam train from the late 1800s and is a chance to venture into the Borneo mangroves from the comfort of your seat. We booked in advance as advised and left the confines of our beach haven to drive an hour back into KK. At the station we exchanged our email confirmation for 3 quaint passports and tickets and boarded our beautiful carriage with its wooden interiors. 

Then we disembarked to watch the steam engine reverse into position and couple up to the 5 carriages. It was highly exciting for a 3 year old - we even had moments of stunned silence. 

Once we chugged out of the station it was about an hour and a half journey to the end point with one 20 minute stop in between in a non descript village. The final stop was half an hour in another non descript place of small grocery shops and dark coffee shops. 

A tiffin box lunch (which sounded far better than it tasted) was served on the return journey, set up after that last stop. I'm glad we had had a good breakfast because really, only the fruit box was edible. 

The engine ran out of steam - hazards of old machinery - and with the firebox needing to be stoked we were delayed about 20 minutes on the return. The scenery was interesting but not spectacular - water buffalos, mangroves, rivers and seaside featured prominently. 

On balance it was worth the money and effort despite the poor food and delays. It was an interesting idea, a beautiful train preserved and a morning of tourism made out of not very much. 

As always it took me back to the train museum in Delhi in which I was so disappointed this last trip. We have the trains and possibly the expertise but lack the vision to see what could be. A luxury half day excursion from Delhi in a royal Jaipur saloon for example with a thali lunch and British tea. A relatively easy option compared to the royal rajasthan journey which is $300 a night. Or just a luxury restaurant on wheels. Just throwing it out there. It would certainly beat the rust heaps those poor trains are decaying into.

Anyway, half two was more relaxing, beach castle building and wave lapping, picture taking and delirious laughing. A lovely sunset meal in the beach restaurant and we are about to turn in. There are more sundaes to be eaten and beach/ pool bumming to be tackled tomorrow. Life, it eees tough! 

P.S. Random person in my sunset picture. 

Monday, June 03, 2013

Blue skies

That holiday I mentioned? We are on it. A whole entire week away from the rush of daily Singapore life.

This is day 2.5. We have spent the morning trekking up a very short but densely packed hill to watch monkey antics from a bunch of hungry orang-utans. A leisurely lunch later we are contemplating a nap and then an evening of sandcastle creation on a very wide, wheat coloured beach. 

This picture could be a postcard. It could also be anywhere - I have seen so many like it - Malpe, Sydney, Zanzibar, Barbados, Deal, Bali, Hua Hin to name but a few. This is Kota Kinabalu. Malaysia. It's beautiful and the sea is very blue. I'm not sure why I am so taken aback by this. Or what I was expecting to be so different in my minds eye. 

All I know is that I am happy as a clam discovering that real satay and Rendang tastes nothing like I've had before.