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2012 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix April 10, 2012

Posted by Dru in East Asia, Sports, Travel.
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Author’s  Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2012 Formula Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Os

This year I decided that my grand trip would be to head to Malaysia to watch the 2012 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix.  After going to the Singapore Grand Prix in 2011, I talked about what our next trip would be with my girlfriend.  We decided that it would be cheaper overall and probably more enjoyable to head to Malaysia to watch the F1 Grand Prix than to go to the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka.  In Singapore, we had a great time and I enjoyed seeing and doing many things.  I had no expectations whatsoever in Malaysia and after doing some researching, I found a cheap flight and ordered tickets online to the F1 Grand Prix.  I wasn’t expecting too much from what I had seen but I did expect a typical F1 experience.  Unfortunately, whether it was due to the promoters or Malaysia itself, I was let down in many ways.

The atmosphere of the Malaysian Grand Prix was similar in many respects to the other Grand Prix I had visited.  The need for a party like atmosphere with many familiar overtones was dominant.  First, there were the typical shops where you could enjoy buying various F1 merchandise at F1 prices.  It is safe to say that almost every F1 race has the exact same shops when it comes to merchandise.  You will find shops that sell all of the various team clothing and accessories but you will be hard pressed to find a lot of it at the Malaysian Grand Prix.  I found that the Singapore GP was a little better overall in terms of what I could buy.  It could be because the F1 season is just starting when the Malaysian GP is being held so many of the teams don’t have enough merchandise on offer, but that is just speculation on my part.  Then there is the food.  You can’t go to any F1 event without noticing the types of food that are on offer or trying it when you are there all day.  In Japan, there are a lot of standard foods that I eat at the race all the time and they are usually delicious.  At the Malaysian GP, I found the food to be sub-par for what I would like to eat.  While there are a lot of good things to eat, there was too much bad western food and the Malaysian food that was available was just average.  I didn’t mind it too the food in Malaysia too much but after eating at the Japan GP or even the Singapore GP, I was a bit disappointed with my experience here.  Maybe in the future the circuit organizers can improve their food offerings as other areas of Kuala Lumpur had very good things to eat.

In terms of facilities, the Sepang International Circuit is a nice place.  The circuit is very interesting with a lot of good racing.  They have several sections and going to the GP is relatively cheap.  You don’t need to buy a ticket to just go to the races and enjoy the atmosphere.  The only time you need to show your ticket is when you head into the grandstands, but even then it doesn’t matter too much.  The layout is a little strange as they have a large parking lot that serves as the drop off and pick up point for the various buses.  You then walk up or take a shuttle up a hill that leads to the main entrance.  The main mall is basically a public area that has a welcome centre and shopping leading to the main grandstands.  It is a nice setup that allows people who haven’t paid for tickets to still experience a bit of the GP itself, but I was amazed that they didn’t have a few basic merchandise items that were exclusive to ticket holders.  Once you are in the grandstands, you get to figure out where you are sitting, which is not very easy depending on which area you are in.  The signage was very poor for a world class circuit but that is very easy to improve if they invest a little money.  The main flaw to the design layout was the fact that the grandstands were sectioned off by security.  I had to cross security to get to my seats and to buy food, but if I wanted to go back and get a shirt or a program, I had to leave the security area.  While they did provide UV stamps so we could re-enter, it was very troublesome to get through security, and with the heat and humidity, I was worried my stamp would “melt” away from my sweat.  I do wish they had a few shops in the grandstand area, but there wasn’t a lot of space either.  While the layout of the plaza area wasn’t ideal, the seats were great.  I had a great view of the entire back half of the track from the back main grandstand.  The front and back straights were covered by a canvas roof, but the roof had two big flaws.  The first was that the roof wasn’t UV protected.  I continued to tan a bit in the sun even though I was in the shade.  It was unexpected but for a 13 year old circuit, I can’t complain too much.  The main problem was the rain.  While I was under the roof, the roof leaked a lot.  Whether it was the seam or the steel girder holding up the roof, during the rain it just dripped water all over me.  There were two or three seats that were really bad and I had the unfortunate luck to be in one of them.  Thankfully Petronas handed out free ponchos to whoever could get their hands on one and I had a small cover for the rain.

The race itself was pretty interesting.  There were 4 races that I knew of for that day.  The first was an amateur race that lasted just a few laps.  It was fun to watch but not the best race in the world.  Next was a Malaysian racing series, I think, with various GT cars.  It was a better race but half of it was run under a safety car due to a tremendous crash at the start of the race.  After the restart, it was somewhat procedural.  The last support race was a GP2 race.  It is the feeder series into F1 itself with many drivers in GP2 graduating into F1.  It is a bit of an up and down series with many drivers deciding to go up and then after failing to survive in F1 they return to GP2.  For the older drivers in F1, they tend to change series completely with little to no chance of returning to F1.  This is an unfortunately problem in F1 today with a lot of teams requiring drivers to bring sponsorship money into the team before they can be considered a member of the team.  It is an unfortunate problem of a world where the economy is still lagging and many car companies don’t have enough money to support their own teams.

The main event was, of course, the F1 Grand Prix itself.  The entire weekend was a build up to a race that started at 4pm on Sunday March 25th.  The hour before the race was a scorcher.  Over 30C and high humidity meant that I was sitting and sweating at the same time.  I kept as cool as I could and just relaxed for most of the day under the shade of the back grandstand.  As the race was about to get underway, a huge thundershower was rolling in.  It seemed okay at first and a little hard to see for me in my seat but some parts of the circuit had rain and others didn’t.  As the race got underway, people were cheering and watching intently.  After a handful of laps, and some frantic pit stops to change tires, the race was suddenly stopped due to the amount of rain flooding the track.  Malaysia is a country that expects rain and has good drainage but when there is a thundershower, all bets are off.  There was too much standing water so the race was red flagged and delayed almost an hour.  However, when the racing got back underway, it was very intense.  The rain was still falling when they restarted but it was lightening up.  It then stopped and allowed the track to completely dry by the end.  There were a few accidents on track but nothing that would completely stop the racing.  There was a big battle between the Sauber of Sergio Perez and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.  A typical David and Goliath battle where most of the people were cheering for Perez to slay Alonso and win the race.  Unfortunately, due to a small mistake at the end of the race and the team and driver agreeing to hold second place, Perez failed to win the grand prix.  It was sad but understandable for such a small team to value the safety of a guaranteed podium over the chance of a win.

Overall I would say the race was a lot of fun.  It met all of my expectations but unfortunately it didn’t exceed them.  My expectations were set a little low but I was expecting it to be a tough challenge to rival Singapore in terms of fun.  The circuit itself is not difficult to access and there are a lot of positives about going to a grand prix in a foreign country.  I don’t regret going to the Malaysian Grand Prix.  All of the problems I had with this race were pretty small.  While the problems were small, they all added up and they need to be improved before I consider going back for either F1 or MotoGP in the future but if they do fix enough of the small things in the next few years, I will be back for the races.  Otherwise, I’ll have to find another excuse to go to Kuala Lumpur.

2012 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix is part of a series of posts detailing my experiences of visiting various F1 races around the world.  To read more about the various races I have attended, please follow the links below:

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Food in Singapore December 13, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Food in Singapore” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Kk

Singapore is a wonderful place to eat.  In my previous posts about Singapore, I mentioned that Singapore is a very multi-cultural city and that is reflected in the food options that are available.  From the research that I had done prior to my trip, I never found a lot of information on real authentic Singaporean food.  I found a lot of information on food in general but nothing that would say that this or that was truly originated from Singapore.  People had told me that the food is from Singapore but I had a tough time telling the difference between what I was told to be Singaporean food and what appeared to originally be Chinese/Indian/Malay/Indonesian food.  This was further exacerbated as the closest I came to eating real Singaporean food was in Canada at one restaurant that was a mix between Malaysian, Thai, and Singaporean food.

While it may be difficult to tell the difference between real Singaporean food and dishes that had been localized with time, there are three distinct Asian types of food that can easily be found in Singapore.  The first is Malaysian, or rather South-East Asian.  One will have to forgive me if I am not in touch with the differences of each country’s local cuisine, but unfortunately I am not an expert on Singapore.  The first dish that I can think of that is part of the area is Kaya Toast.  Kaya is a type of coconut and egg spread and Kaya Toast is when you take this spread and put it in a toast sandwich along with a small wedge of butter.  It reminded me of eating cinnamon toast as a child with lots of sugar.  It was delicious and something that I would eat, not just for breakfast but also for a snack.  The typical way to order Kaya Toast is to get a set with Singaporean coffee and eggs.  Singaporean coffee reminds me of what I think is a Vietnamese style, or rather originally French coffee.  Using a tall metal pot and a high pour to add air into the coffee itself is wonderful technique that is employed in Singapore.  They also use condensed milk and hot water to keep the coffee from being too strong.  The eggs are soft boiled eggs that can be used as a dip for the Kaya Toast or eaten plain with or without soy sauce and black pepper.  One might wonder, what is the “correct” way of eating Kaya Toast, and if the Discovery Chanel is true, there is no correct way of eating Kaya Toast.  You can eat it in any way you’d like.

Another traditional dish I noticed would have to be the noodle dishes.  Dishes such as Mee Goreng and Bee Hoon were great.  They are a regional take on Chow Mein or Yaki Soba.  Almost every Asian country has their version of fried rice or fried noodles.  The version I had in Singapore was delicious with heaps of seafood.  In every food court and hawker’s market I could find these home style foods.  The smells were great and there were small citrus fruits included with these dishes that looked and tasted like sudachi in Japan.  The small citrus fruits were a perfect complement to the spiciness of the noodles.  I also had a chance to eat Lahksa, which is more Indian in style.  It was a spicy soup, almost curry like, with noodles that reminded me of a soup curry rather than an actual Singaporean dish.  One item that I didn’t have a chance to try was the satay.  I was always unlucky when trying to order it.  I always wanted to have satay in that region as I wanted to compare it to the satay that I could get back in Vancouver.  Rather than allowing it to be a regret, I thankfully think of it as just one more reason to go back to Singapore.

In terms of Indian food, there is a lot.  With Little India just a stone’s throw away from my hotel, it was easy to get Indian food, but I never went to Little India for it.  The first chance I had for Indian food was at Boat Quay.  I went to a restaurant that advertised Northern Indian food and it was delicious.  I don’t know what the difference is between Northern and Southern Indian food but my guess would be that Northern Indian tends to be “drier”.  By this, I am comparing it to Indian food that I have bought in Tokyo, which is highly unlikely to be authentic.  I ordered what would seem to be regular food from India.  I had some samosas, naan, curry, and tandoori chicken.  The Samosas were delicious and very much alike the potato samosas I had in Vancouver.  I also had papadums.  These are similar to Indian “chips” with a mint dip and a mango dip.  It was not what I expected but not terrible either.  The naan was a surprise.  I am used to the huge triangle shaped naan in Japan, but these were simple circles and probably more traditional of India or northern India.  The curry was also a bit of a surprise.  I ordered a chili chicken curry that had almost no sauce.  Rather, the sauce was so thick that it looked more like sweet and sour chicken, but a lot spicier.  While it was a surprise, it was also very delicious.  The tandoori chicken was the house specialty and it was as expected.  Not too dry as some places do but just the right amount of spice for me.  I had one other opportunity to have Indian-like food in Singapore.  I ordered some curry in a food court and it was also a bit dry overall.  While the dry curry was good, it was just something I had to get used to as I had a bad experience with dry curry in the past.

Chinese food is by far the easiest food to obtain.  Everywhere I went I could see various types of Chinese food.  Growing up in Vancouver, I had a great opportunity to taste various types of Cantonese style foods.  In Singapore, chicken rice is very famous.  It is actually Haianese food but it was delicious and the ginger rice that I had with it was perfect.  The rice had the scent of ginger but it wasn’t too spicy either.  I also had a chance to eat some Chinese style pastries.  Within the food areas of department stores, I could find various cakes and pastries.  Singapore has many bakeries that sell traditional bread style pastries as well as flake pastries.  I was happy to see I could get my favourite pastries in Singapore and I didn’t have to go to Hong Kong or Vancouver to get it.  Japan is one of the worst places to get real Chinese pastries, and even in Hong Kong I have found it a challenge at times to get the ones I want as  Hong Kong has been transitioning from the pastries that I know and love to a more Japanese style.  Japanese pastries tend to be very good but the way they do things is not the same.  Think of the difference between a McDonald’s burger and a gourmet burger.  They are the same thing but done completely differently.  Sometimes one is better than the other, but it depends on your mood.  That’s how I feel about these pastries.  Chicken rice and pastries aren’t the only dishes available in Singapore.  You can also get dim sum, although I couldn’t get any due to bad luck or timing, noodles in soup, and various rice dishes.  Because I ate in food courts, the food was somewhat skewed.  I am used to eating in restaurants where I can share many dishes along with plain white rice.  In the food courts, food is designed for single people and it was hard to try many different things at once.

As you can see, eating in Singapore is varied.  The food was all delicious and other than being a little scared of the cleanliness of the hawker’s markets, everything was fine.  If I could, I would go to the hawker’s markets more often but I also felt a little strange as it was filled with locals.  I stuck out like a sore thumb every time I walked through the hawker’s market that was between my hotel and the station.  For some, it is a great place but with my own personality, I found it difficult to enjoy a meal there.  The hawker’s markets are open from late morning until dinner time, but around dinner time they all start to shut down.  You can easily find food during the day but by night things get a little difficult.  It is a great adventure to try the hawker’s markets and next time, if I’m with the right people, I’ll have no problems going back and eating there more often.

Food in Singapore is part of a series of posts on Singapore.  Please continue with the links below to read more about Singapore:

Singapore (Orchard & Missed Opportunities) November 29, 2011

Posted by Dru in East Asia, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Singapore (Orchard & Missed Opportunities)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-JO

Orchard is Singapore’s version of Ginza.  It is the high end of shopping and a place where people go to be seen.  When someone is looking for high fashion items like the perfect Gucci bag, Orchard seems to be the place to go.  I only spent a few hours in Orchard and I actually arrived a little early.  I arrived in Orchard around 10:30, and most of the shops were still closed.  I ended up wasting a bit of my time just walking around looking for shops that were open.  It is very much like Ginza where things don’t really come alive until 11am, at best.  I went into Orchard not really expecting too much as I don’t normally shop for high end items, but I ended up enjoying the experience.

The main strip, Orchard Road, is where most of the shops are.  There really isn’t much else to it, but there are a few places to visit on either side of the main strip.  I found that if you go off the main strip, you can see a few cheaper shops compared to the luxury of Orchard.  The main strip itself is a plethora of shopping malls and department stores.  The anchor of Orchard has to be Tangs.  It is one of the oldest department stores in Orchard and a major retailer in Singapore.  When they opened, Orchard was little more than a small residential and cemetery area.  Once Tangs built their main shop, things started to change.  It eventually turned into the high end shopping district it is today.  The most common area is an area between Orchard Station and Dhoby Ghaut Station.  It is a short walk between the stations and fairly easy, even on a very hot day.  You can easily walk from mall to mall, department store to department store and only feel the heat a little.  My only surprise was to see the many Japanese department stores.  Unfortunately, some of them were just a pale comparison to their original counterparts in Japan, but there were many of them and the ones that spent money to be upscale were very much like their original counterparts.  Orchard is also well known for its cafes and restaurants.  Like any upscale shopping district, you need to have places for people to rest, relax, and eat.

When visiting Singapore for the F1 Grand Prix, there are many things you can’t do.  You can’t really experience the night life in Singapore.  You spend most of the night at the race itself and after the race you are pretty tired.  The Friday qualifying wasn’t too late but after walking around all day in the circuit, I just didn’t have any energy to keep going.  On Saturday, the qualifying didn’t end till 11pm or so, which made it difficult to go out afterwards.  By Sunday, I was just too tired from going everywhere possible.  There are several places I wish I could have gone if I had more time and more flexibility to travel around Singapore.  The first would be Sentosa Island.  To me, it looks like nothing more than a Singapore version of Disney World.  There are beaches, shopping malls, and other amusement attractions such as Universal Studios Singapore.  It looked like a nice, expensive, place to visit.  If I had more time, I would have spent a day just trying many things on the island.  The other regret I had was not being able to go on a night safari.  In Japan, a lot of Japanese people told me to go on a night safari, but since I was too busy with F1, there was no chance I could have gone on a safari.  It seems interesting but at the same time it wasn’t high enough on my list of things to do in Singapore.

One other regret is not getting out and around Singapore itself.  Singapore is well connected to Malaysia as well as Indonesia.  I wish I had a lot more time to visit one of the resort islands in the area, although travelling to Thailand might be a better idea due to the prices.  Singapore is a wonderful country and it is a place I wish to re-visit in the future.  There are many other places that I would love to visit but if the opportunity does arise, I will be heading to Singapore very quickly.  Unfortunately, a short visit without knowing any locals probably created a tourist bubble around me and influenced my own impressions of Singapore.  I wish I knew people who lived in Singapore to get a better idea as to how life really is, as I learned when I visited Hong Kong and Taiwan in the past.  Hopefully I can revisit soon and get a better understanding of the people and culture that is unique to Singapore.

Singapore (Orchard & Missed Opportunities) is part of a series of posts on Singapore.  Please continue with the links below to read more about Singapore:

Singapore in a Nutshell October 25, 2011

Posted by Dru in East Asia, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Singapore in a Nutshell” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-JE

Singapore is a small country that has been influenced a lot by history and outside forces.  It can be argued that Singapore was born in the early 1800s when England established a colony in the area.  It was governed by England, with a brief Japanese rule during World War II until the 1960s when Britain allowed Singapore to merge with other countries to form Malaysia.  This lasted only 2 years before it was made completely independent.  It has since flourished and grown as a distinct country on the southern tip of Malaysia.  Singapore is a very small country that can be related more as a city than a country.  It is well known for its crack-down on crime with stiff punishments.  Even so, Singapore is a very clean country that is very multicultural.

Singapore is well known for its airport, Changi Airport. It is touted as one of the best airports in the world, along with Seoul’s Incheon and Hong Kong.  It is a very large, magnificent, and beautiful airport with 3 terminals and lots of things to do.  It is also one of the strangest airports I have ever visited.  Upon entering, the method of entry was pretty standard, however it was more American in the fact that I exited the gate and I was in the security controlled area of the airport.  I walked past all of the duty free shops and straight to immigration where I had the typical passport check.  I then proceeded past all of the luggage belts and out the door.  There was no customs control for those who had nothing to declare and only one guard there.  They didn’t take anything such as a customs card. This was also the strangest departure of an airport in my life.  For my departure, I nearly had a typical experience.  The check-in procedure was pretty straight forward.  I had to get my GST rebate prior to checking in, but with everything prepared at the shop all I had to do was scan my barcode and that was that.  I passed through immigration control very easily and I was extremely surprised that there were no security checks to get into the controlled area.  In fact, Changi Airport only does security checks when you enter the gate area, which most people probably don’t know.  The shopping at all 3 terminals are all very similar with almost nothing to differentiate the areas aside from the fact that each building was built at different times.  The shops are all completely the same.  I probably wasted a little time going to Terminal 3 to check out a few of the shops when I didn’t have to.  I will say that the airport is one of the best I have ever visited, but an airport is still just an airport with nothing too special.

Getting into the city is very easy.  Some people take taxis which are affordable but I decided to take the train.  A word of advice; be very aware of the limits of the IC card that they use.  The EZ-Pass is very useful but the cost of it is not really worth it.  I was surprised to learn that I needed a minimum $3 to use the train system and if you top it up with $10 just before going to the airport, you still have to wait 2 or so hours before you can get a refund on the balance.  Plus, a refund means you forfeit the card, which I didn’t know at the time.  Otherwise, the IC card and the train system is very efficient.  Getting downtown, I stayed at Bugis Station, was very easy as Bugis Station is on the main line to the airport.  There are buses that you can use to get around the city but they can be a little difficult to use as you have to calculate how far you need to go.  With an IC card, there is no thinking.  Just tap and go.  It is no different than in other East Asian cities that also use IC cards.  The other plus is that downtown Singapore is such a small area that you can easily walk around the city on your own.  There is no real need to use public transportation unless you decide to head to Sentosa Island or to some of the more distant areas.

Singapore is a very multi-cultural city.  My impression that Singapore is a multi-cultural city could have been due to the Formula One Grand Prix that was happening at the time as well but from all of the workers and what appeared to be local people, I noticed a lot of different people.  While Chinese people are the largest group, I saw a large and healthy group of Malays and Indians.  This can easily be reflected in the architecture of the city.  It is easy to see Hindu temples next to Taoist temples, mosques next to churches and so on.  Many of these religious buildings are a beacon in their respective blocks as if to say that their religion is more important than the other, yet there seems to be a great respect for each other.  I can’t say that this is true in real life but that was my brief view of the city at the time.  The common language in Singapore is English, and while Chinese is the most widely spoken native language, it is not the common language.  I have heard time and time again that Chinese will be the most spoken language of the world and that we must learn it in order to survive in business.  I highly doubt that is true.  While it is true that Chinese will become the most spoken language in the world, it won’t be the common language.  People need a unifying language in order to communicate with each other and I think English will continue to be that language.  If you ever visit Singapore, you will notice this easily.  It is quite easy to notice that while speaking Chinese is an asset in communicating smoothly, Indians and Malays don’t speak Chinese or if they do it is very limited.  Even if they did speak Chinese, there are many different Chinese languages.  Hence English will continue to be the unifying language of the world and Singapore for the indefinite future.

Singapore itself is an every growing country.  You can see change everywhere you go.  It is similar to Tokyo in that respect.  Many of the older buildings are being torn down to make way for new high rises.  The central business district near the Fullerton Hotel is an expanding region.  You can find many businesses there.  You can see the huge development in the Marina Bay area with the new Marina Bay Sands hotel and the huge gardens that are being constructed behind the hotel.  The entire area is undergoing its last push for development and should be finished in the next few years.  While there are many new developments happening around Singapore, I also noticed that a lot of historical buildings are being maintained or restored.  It is wonderful to see the Raffles Hotel and how it hasn’t changed much since it was originally built.  It is great to see the old Fullerton Hotel as well as other historic buildings being maintained.  There are also various buildings that are being modernized and restored.  The Custom’s House complex was modernized while retaining the original façade.  Even the famous Arab St. looks historical while being modernized inside the buildings themselves.  It is an amazing sight to see and something I feel Japan can learn from.

Singapore is a wonderful city/country to visit.  I would love to visit this city again in the future.  While it wasn’t a perfect trip, I was impressed by everything I did and everything I saw.  It has the modernity of Japan with the historical feel of Hong Kong or Macau.  It also has a lot of unique aspects that give it its charm.  While I cannot tell whether my visit was influenced by the F1 event that was happening at the same time, I did thoroughly enjoy the visit.  In the following posts on Singapore I will go into greater detail on the different areas specifically.

Singapore in a Nutshell is part of a series of posts on Singapore.  Please continue with the links below to read more about Singapore:

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